Open Access e-Journal Earth Science India- www.earthscienceindia.info Popular Issue, V (II), April, 2012, p.

1-16

LICHENOMETRY: A TECHNIQUE TO DATE NATURAL HAZARDS
Santosh Joshi, D. K. Upreti, Pulak Das and Sanjeeva Nayaka Once attached to substratum their place during entire lifespan do not change. Hence, the age of lichen is an alternate for the minimum exposure time of a substrate to the atmosphere and sunlight…………. Lichenometry has majority of applications from dating glacier moraines, landslides, and fluvial deposits to calibrating the age through the formation of old monuments, buildings and other archeological structures.

Lichens are the composite organisms which have an ability to colonize on a variety of
substrates including rock, soil, trees and man–made structures in diverse environmental conditions. The thallus of the organisms comprises of fungus and algae/cyanobacteria growing in a symbiotic association. The alpine climate is generally harsh for the common plant groups. Lichens can easily cope up with the extreme conditions of the region due to their peculiar morphological, anatomical, and physiological characteristics. The slow growing and sensitive nature of lichens can be utilized as an indicator of environmental changes, load of atmospheric fallout of metals and dating the rock surfaces on which they are growing. The slow growth of lichens is attributed to only 5–10% of algal component that fulfill the carbohydrate requirements of the thallus. Lichenometry has been a globally accepted biological technique. The global acceptance of the technique may be interpreted by different references to lichenometry in the literatures of geoscience that have shown an increase of 0.02% in 35 years (Noller and Locke 2000). It is one of the chronological tools that have appeared to estimate the elapsed time ranging from decades to millions of years by utilizing different lichen species. Lichens grow on rock surfaces at relatively uniform rates over time scales of centuries (Fig. 1). Once attached to substratum their place during entire lifespan do not change. Hence, the age of lichen is an alternate for the minimum exposure time of a substrate to the atmosphere and sunlight. It was Lord William Hamilton (1730–1803), a naturalist, who had applied botany on geological dating problems and tried to relate the density and type of vegetation cover with the age of lava flows of Vesuvius. The basic concept of lichenometry is based on the similar approach. The use of lichens growth for relative dating of the surfaces was first proposed by the botanist Knut Faegri in 1930s which was further expanded by the Austrian botanist Roland Beschel in 1950s. An observed relation of the lichen thallus size with gravestones and exposed rock surfaces after glacier retreat generated an initiative by Beschel (1950, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961, and 1973) to anticipate the use of lichens in dating. Since then lichenometry has been applied in different denudation processes, debris flows, rockwalls and escarpments. In a country like India most of the regions are under

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