Long-term monitoring of environmental change in German towns through the use of lichens as biological indicators: comparison between the surveys of 1970, 1980, 1985, 1995, 2005 and 2010 in Wetzlar and Giessen
1 Forsthausstr. 7a, Wettenberg 35435, Germany
2 Kaupstraße 43, Darmstadt 64289, Germany
3 Schützenstraße 45, Taunusstein 65232, Germany
4 Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen, Fachbereich KMUB, Wiesenstr. 14, Giessen 35390, Germany
Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:19 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-19Published: 23 May 2012
In the years 1970, 1980, 1985, 1995, 2005 and 2010, lichen mapping in the towns of Wetzlar and Giessen in Hesse was performed. The aim was to show the effects of immission load. Despite the application of modified test methods during the study period, the results can still be compared directly because they could be adapted to the requirements of the guidelines of the Association of German Engineers. Even the earlier study results could be interpreted partly within the scope of the guidelines. Parallel to the lichen mapping, comparative examinations of pH on tree bark were carried out.
In both towns, the pH of the tree bark has been increasing continuously, presently almost reaching pre-industrial values. The increase was stronger in Wetzlar than in Giessen. In 1970, the lichen vegetation showed a complete depletion. Since then the number of species has risen significantly. This development happened faster and more intensely in Wetzlar. The comparison of the lichen vegetation between 1970 and 2010 also shows an increased existence of species that are favored by hypertrophic air contaminants. In the 2010 survey, some species considered as being promoted by global warming were found for the first time.
The increase of the bark pH can be explained by the decreasing acid pollution, primarily SO2. This is also assumed to be the main cause for the increasing number of lichen species. An explanation for Wetzlar's advantage is that the acid pollutants had been neutralized by a local industrial emittent of lime dust. With the reduction of dust emissions in Wetzlar due to the installation of filters, the bark pH in both towns steadily converged in the reference period. An examination of pre-industrial lichen studies shows that in both towns the original state of lichen vegetation has not been restored yet.