Across the planet’s terrestrial surface lives a layer of organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Lichens and bryophytes are hosts to these cryptobiotic communities that play a critical role in stabilizing soil, preventing erosion, absorbing rainfall, and providing nutrients for the growing plants around them. This hidden life creates a critical miniature forest that serves as an important habitat for tiny animals and forms a “living skin” found throughout the world, from canyon deserts to polar icecaps.
Jessica Budke, director of the UT Herbarium (TENN) and her colleagues from 25 institutions across the United States received a grant from the National Science Foundation to image and digitize associated metadata for close to 1.2 million lichen and bryophyte specimens housed in their collections.
Read more at eeb.utk.edu.