Lichen lovers asked to look for signs of life in the dead

Jun 7, 2024 | News

This summer, a novel search for life beyond death will be conducted in English burial grounds. Citizen scientists are asked to record the lichens growing on gravestones.

Churchyards and cemeteries provide a safe haven for these complex and slow-growing lifeforms. They are symbiotic relationships of algae living within filaments of fungi. They are an important species in many ecosystems. They provide food and aid in soil formation and nutrient cycles.

Over 2,000 species have been identified as native to Britain. However, habitats are threatened by land use changes and development. Over a third were found in churchyards where the ancient stonework, from tombstones and boundary walls to churches themselves, provides a pristine and pollution-free sanctuary. Many are found nowhere else.

These beautiful species remind us that churches are not just places for the dead, but also for the living.

The Church of England deserves praise for initiating the unique nature counts, which were part of a celebration of all creatures large and small. Its ‘Churches Count on Nature” project has accumulated more than 37,000 wildlife recordings over the last three year and coincides the annual Love Your Burial Grounds Week which kicks off on Saturday. This aims to showcase the churchyard heritage and boost the community connection.

The Church of England’s lead environmental bishop, the Bishop of Norwich Graham Usher, told Positive News that he had enjoyed learning about the rare lichens growing on gravestones. These beautiful species are part of God’s rich Creation, reminding us churchyards are not just for the dead.

Main image: K Mitch Hodge

Support solutions for 2024

Positive News helps more people than ever get a balanced, uplifting view of life. While other news outlets are dominated by doom and despair, our solutions journalism is here to empower you and support your wellbeing.

Our reporting is not free and as an independent, non-profit media organization, we depend on the financial support of our readers. If you appreciate what we do, and have the means to do so, please support our team by making a regular contribution or a one-off donation.

Donate once at PS1 or join 1,400+ other contributors who average PS3 or more each month. You will directly fund the production and dissemination of our stories, allowing our solutions journalism to reach more people.

Join our community and together we will change the news for the better.

Support positive News

Share to:

Recommended Articles