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Epiphytic macrolichens in Seoul: 35 years after the first lichen study in Korea

Keywords: air pollutants , bioindicator , lichens , Seoul , temporal and spatial variation

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Many lichens have been used as bioindicators for air pollutants such as SO2. The first ecological study on lichens in Koreawas conducted in 1975 by Kim and Lee, disclosing that areas adjacent to the center of Seoul were lichen deserts. Air qualityin Seoul has improved significantly since the 1980s. However, the distribution of lichen species has not been reevaluatedsince then. We examined the spatial and temporal pattern of lichen distribution by selecting six (inner city green[ICG] and four (outer city green [OCG]) sites, based on the distance from the city center of Seoul and the land use pattern.The change in lichen distribution was related to yearly mean concentrations of SO2, NO2, and O3 for the years 1980-2009.Four and 13 lichen species were found in ICGs and OCGs, respectively. Although mean sample numbers per specieswere much higher in the former, species richness tended to increase with distance from the city center. Since 1980, SO2has declined drastically to < 0.01 ppm in both ICGs and OCGs, indicating that SO2 is no longer a limiting factor for lichenestablishment and growth. In contrast, NO2 has increased steadily for 20 years (1989-2009) and a considerable proportionof lichen species in both ICGs and OCGs are known as nitrophilic or pollution-tolerant species. Appearance of nitrophilesin both ICGs and OCGs and the dominance of a few lichen species in ICGs may reflect the effects of the increase in NO2.In contrast to SO2 and NO2, O3 was higher in OCGs, but it was difficult to identify a causal relationship between O3 andlichen distribution.


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