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The reliability of lichenometric dating is dependent on a good understanding of lichen growth rates. The growth rate of lichens can be determined from direct measurement of growing lichens or indirect methods by measuring lichens growing on surfaces of known age, although there are limitations to both approaches. Radiocarbon (14C) analysis has previously been used in only a handful of studies to determine lichen growth rates of two species from a small area of North America. These studies have produced mixed results; a small amount of carbon turnover appears to occur in one of the species (Caloplaca spp.) previously investigated introducing uncertainty in the growth rate, while much higher carbon cycling occurred in another (Rhizocarpon geographicum), making the 14C approach unsuitable for estimating growth rates in the species most commonly used in lichenometric dating. We investigated the use of bomb-14C analysis to determine the growth rate of a different crustose species (Pertusaria pseudocorallina) common to Northern Europe. 14C-based growth rates were considerably higher than growth rates of morphologically similar species based on direct measurement made at locations nearby and elsewhere in the UK. This observation strongly suggests that a degree of carbon turnover probably occurs in Pertusaria pseudocorallina, and that bomb-14C analysis alone cannot be used to determine lichen age or absolute growth rates in this lichen species.
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Keywords: Pertusaria pseudocorallina; crustose lichen; growth rate; lichenometry; radiocarbon

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: NERC Radiocarbon Facility (Environment), Scottish Enterprise Technology Park, Glasgow, UK 2: British Geological Survey, Murchison House, Edinburgh, UK

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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