Please note that while Yosemite remains open during the federal government shutdown, services and facilities are very limited, and certain areas of the park are closed. For more information, please refer to the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior: visit and

As the impact of the government shutdown continues to be felt, Yosemite Conservancy remains committed to supporting Yosemite National Park.

Click here for more information on the availability of Yosemite Conservancy programs and services during the shutdown.

Survey of Yosemite Lichen Communities

Survey of Yosemite Lichen Communities

You might have gazed at the face of Half Dome or El Capitan and wondered what causes those black and colored streaks on the iconic granite faces. These are Yosemite’s lichen communities, which are made up of individual tiny organisms that have a big impact in terms of alerting scientists to climate change and air quality.

Why Are Lichens Important?

Lichens are important marker species and often indicate change or decline in a specific environmental community. The species and locations of these organisms can tell us a great deal about air quality and pollution levels in the park, which is why scientists want to know more about lichen biodiversity.

Discovering New Species

A Conservancy grant made it possible for park scientists to survey comprehensively Yosemite’s lichen populations to better understand and identify this important species. As a result of this survey, the number of known lichen species in Yosemite went from 30 to more than 600 when the project concluded. Specimens were collected and analyzed to provide insight into how lichen communities are affected by atmospheric nitrogen pollution. Because lichens are so sensitive to air quality and climate change, major distributional shifts were found to be taking place within the park.

Thanks to you, scientists have discovered new lichen communities and are gathering crucial insight to air-quality and climate-change patterns within the park.

More Habitat Restored Projects