Improvements in air quality in air polluted areas are often followed by recolonization of habitats by sensitive lichens that had died out when air quality was worse. To test the hypothesis that air quality at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has improved such that lichens could recolonize the area, samples of a species that once grew in the park, Hypogymnia physodes, were transplanted from Door County, Wisconsin to the park and three other sites along the western shore of Lake Michigan, including one at the site of origin as a control. The lichens were sampled for 3 years and tissue concentrations of 20 chemical elements were measured. There were no significant differences between concentrations over the 3 year study duration at the control site in Door County, suggesting that transplanting itself had no impacts on tissue concentrations. All but two elements increased in concentration from north to south with the greatest increases occurring in the third year of the study. Lichens at Indiana Dunes at the end of the study had suffered severe mortality. Chromium increased the most from north to south but concentrations were not higher than maxima observed in other studies. Arsenic and sulfur, however, exceeded known toxic thresholds or maxima observed in other studies on this species. Four hypotheses are presented to explain the toxicity of elements to this species.
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Element concentrations on Hypogymnia physodes after three years of transplanting along Lake Michigan