LiquenCity
National Projects
Project duration: 
Jul 2018 to Jun 2019

Lichens undoubtedly are the best example of a bioindicator of air pollution. That’s the reason why they are commonly used as bioindicators of the levels of change derived from human activities.

Introduction

Despite the great importance that has for the health of citizens the quality of the air they breathe, the perception of the problem is not extended to the entire population, and the measures taken to mitigate the excessive levels of certain pollutants are often not understood. The improvement of air quality in cities and their transition to more sustainable cities requires the participation of citizens: they can provide knowledge, make decisions and change their habits.

The use of bioindicators allows us to have a greater network of sampling points and to improve the estimation of the levels of atmospheric pollution at a low cost. It has been proved that lichen diversity is inversely correlated to the number of deaths due to lung cancer, so its use as a bioindicator also allows making important predictions for human health (Cislagui & Nimis 1997).

Lichens undoubtedly are the best example of a bioindicator of air pollution. That’s the reason why they are commonly used as bioindicators of the levels of change derived from human activities. William Nylander (1866) was the first researcher to observe the disappearance of lichens as he entered the center of Paris during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, more than 2,000 scientific works have been published using lichens as bioindicators of the air quality and the levels of contamination by sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, etc. in the five continents.

The main objective of the project is to raise awareness among the urban population of Madrid and Barcelona about the effects of atmospheric pollutants and their impact on health, through their active participation in the monitoring of the epiphytic lichens that live with us in the big cities.

The urban population of Madrid and Barcelona, especially the students of secondary schools and professional training, will carry out standardized sampling to find out the diversity and abundance of epiphytic lichens (which grow on trees). This approach of citizen science to the bioindication of atmospheric pollution will be completed with systematic sampling by lichenologists using standardized protocols at European level. These two sets of data will help to evaluate the air pollution of these cities, know which pollutants are involved and establish criteria and measures to correct the quality of the air and to improve the public health, which could be implemented in municipal management plans.

We expect to train citizens (schoolchildren, educators, naturalists, environmental volunteers and other social groups) through the impartation of training sessions and the distribution of manuals and file cards about the methodology and identification of lichen species. Our intention is to prepare citizens to be able to detect and quantify the presence of lichens in the different districts of Madrid and Barcelona and, therefore, to make the urban population of these two cities aware of the effects of atmospheric pollutants and their impact on health, which is the main objective of this project. The observations will be recorded in the platform Natusfera, where a team of experts will carry out its review.

 

La població urbana de Madrid i Barcelona, especialment l'alumnat de centres de secundària i formació professional, duran a terme mostrejos estandarditzats per esbrinar la diversitat i abundància de líquens epífits (que creixen sobre arbres). Aquesta aproximació de la ciència ciutadana a la bioindicació de la contaminació atmosfèrica es completarà amb mostrejos sistemàtics mitjançant experts liquenòlogs utilitzant protocols estandarditzats a nivell europeu. Aquests dos conjunts de dades ajudaran a avaluar la contaminació atmosfèrica d'aquestes ciutats, conèixer quins agents contaminants hi ha implicats i establir criteris i mesures correctores de la qualitat de l'aire i de millora de la salut pública que es puguin implementar en els plans de gestió municipals.

Pretenem formar la ciutadania (escolars, educadors, naturalistes, voluntaris ambientals i altres col·lectius socials) a través de la impartició de jornades de formació i de la distribució de manuals i fitxes sobre la metodologia i la identificació de les espècies de líquens. La nostra intenció és capacitar la gent perquè sigui capaç de detectar i quantificar la presència dels líquens en els diferents districtes de Madrid i Barcelona i, per tant, sensibilitzar la població urbana d'aquestes dues ciutats sobre els efectes dels contaminants atmosfèrics i la seva incidència en la salut, que és l'objectiu principal d'aquest projecte. Les observacions quedaran registrades a la plataforma Natusfera, on un equip d'experts durà a terme la seva revisió.