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We recently published an image showing it’s true (see Stonehenge tunnel fib in plain sight). But the flourishing state of the delicate lichens on the stones makes it even more certain …

The last major study of the Stonehenge lichens was carried out in 2003. It found 77 different species, including two that are found in a particular recess of one specific stone and nowhere else on site, and another that only grows on one single stone at Stonehenge and nowhere else in southern England.
“We have noticed very little change, which is extremely gratifying. Diversity is about 80 to 90 species and we’ve found some very interesting species new to the area.” But it is not just the richness of species that makes the site unique. “Another reason it is so interesting is the types of community you find here – the combination of species,” said Mr James. “The quality of preservation is also very high.”

Stonehenge is also one of the more important sites for lichens in lowland Britain because of the high proportion of maritime species present, a feature that is still largely unexplained. Dr Oliver Gilbert, one of the country’s most eminent lichenologists, said: “About ten of the species found here are maritime, species which normally only occur on the coast. “It’s not something yet fully explained, but I do have a theory. Although we are 60 miles inland, under certain weather conditions, thermals from the coast reach Stonehenge carrying salt with them.

So it looks like the only short term threat to the lichens comes from people sitting or climbing on the stones during summer solstices, not traffic fumes. English Heritage please note!


October 2021

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