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Moss, Algae, Lichen
Algae (a green or black scum) and moss are usually
problems in shaded, over-wet or badly drained and
compacted sections of the lawn and garden. If the
soil is compacted, spike it with a garden fork to
improve drainage, and if there is too much shade,
cut back trees or shrubs to let in more sunlight.
If the ground is too wet you may have to construct
drains to take away the excess water. You can eradicate
moss growing in lawns by applying twice weekly a
solution of Sulphate of Iron dissolved in
Trees which are lacking in vigour and already dying
back, often have moss or lichens growing on the
bark. It also can occur on healthy trees where the
humidity is high. The moss or lichen itself does
not actually affect the health of the tree as they
are non-parasitic organisms. For lichen in trees,
improve air circulation by pruning overcrowded branches
and any overhanging growth from neighbouring plants.
Improve plant health by watering, mulching and applying
a fertiliser. Moss and Lichen can also be removed
by spraying Lime Sulphur very carefully to
stems and branches or applying with a paint brush.
Lichens are interesting organisms made up of symbiotic relationships between a fungus (mycobiont) and a green alga or cyanobacteria (photobiont), with the fungi providing the structure and the algae the green ‘chlorophyll’ part. This association has been so successful that there are now about 20,000 species of lichens, represented in most habitats in the world.
Lichens form fascinating shapes and structures and a number of broad groups are recognised:
- foliose lichens have lobed growth forms
- crustose lichens look like thin crusts and are firmly attached over their entire underside
- squamulose lichens look like thin flakes or crumbs scattered over the surface
- fruticose lichens are erect or pendulous, markedly three dimensional and attached at the base
Lichen colours range from grey to orange, and they occur in a variety of different places. Some grow on dead branches, some on rotting logs, some on the soil and on rocks. Lichens are important in providing soil surface protection against erosion in dry habitats.
Microbiotic crusts are assemblages of non-vascular plants (mosses, liverworts, algae, lichens, fungi, bacteria and cyanobacteria) which form intimate associations with surface soils.
They play a major role in infiltration processes through changes to soil physico-chemical properties, and through their influence on soil surface roughness. Whilst some research suggests that they may restrict infiltration, Australian experience is that they are generally associated with enhanced infiltration. Unlike physical soil crusts, microbiotic crusts stabilize the soil against water and wind erosion, increasing landscape stability, particularly in areas of low vascular plant cover.
Microbiotic crusts are thus useful indicators of soil surface condition, and cyanobacteria in the crusts fix nitrogen which may be utilized by developing vascular plant seedlings. Little is known, however, about how they interact with vascular plants and soil invertebrates.
Their role in rangeland ecosystems has received renewed attention over the past few years with an increasing interest in ecologically sustainable development of arid and semi-arid grazing systems. In this review we discuss the characteristics and distribution of microbiotic crusts in the rangelands of Australia, their roles in soil and ecological processes and the impacts of fire and grazing.