Northern Lichens That Feed Reindeer

Dec 27, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. A northern relative of our southern reindeer mosses, which as far as I can tell no creatures eat routinely, is an important food in the arctic regions. Lichens can survive in that harsh part of the world as they stop physiological processes in winter, when there’s no liquid water. When snows and ice thaw in spring, this organism, a combination of a fungus and an alga, hydrates and photosynthesis and growth start again. During the harsh winters, reindeer break through the icy ground covering and eat this northern lichen species, which basically is existing in suspended animation. This lichen makes up to 90% of the reindeer’s winter diet and, although lacking protein, is a good source of carbohydrates. Overall, lichens cover six percent the of the earth’s surface, in certain environments they protect and stabilize the soil and begin the process of decomposing rocks.