Growth rates of Rhizocarpon geographicum lichens: A review with new data from Iceland

Tom Bradwell*, Richard A. Armstrong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reviews evidence from previous growth-rate studies on lichens of the yellow-green species of Subgenus Rhizocarpon - the family most commonly used in lichenometric dating. New data are presented from Rhizocarpon section Rhizocarpon thalli growing on a moraine in southern Iceland over a period of 4.33yr. Measurements of 38 lichen thalli, between 2001 and 2005, show that diametral growth rate (DGR, mmyr-1) is a function of thallus size. Growth rates increase rapidly in small thalli (<10 mm diameter), remain high (ca. 0.8 mm yr-1) and then decrease gradually in larger thalli (>50 mm diameter). Mean DGR in southern Iceland, between 2001 and 2005, was 0.64 mm yr-1 (SD = 0.24). The resultant growth-rate curve is parabolic and is best described by a third-order polynomial function. The striking similarity between these findings in Iceland and those of Armstrong (1983) in Wales implies that the shape of the growth-rate curve may be characteristic of Rhizocarpon geographicum lichens. The difference between the absolute growth rate in southern Iceland and Wales (ca. 66% faster) is probably a function of climate and micro-environment between the two sites. These findings have implications for previous lichenometric-dating studies, namely, that those studies which assume constant lichen growth rates over many decades are probably unreliable. © British Geological Survey/ Natural Environment Research Council copyright 2006.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-320
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2007


  • climate
  • dating
  • lichenometry
  • rhizocarpon section Rhizocarpon


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