Remote sensing and spectroscopy of lichens

Miina Rautiainen*, Nea Kuusinen, Titta Majasalmi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

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Lichens are combinations of two symbiotic organisms, a green alga or cyanobacterium and a fungus. They grow in nearly all terrestrial ecosystems and survive in habitats, which are very dry or cold, or too poor in nutrients to maintain vegetation growth. Because lichens grow on visible surfaces and exhibit spectral properties, which are clearly different from, for example, vegetation, it is possible to distinguish them in remote sensing data. In this first systematic review article on remote sensing of lichens, we analyze and summarize which lichen species or genera, and in which habitats and geographical regions, have been remotely sensed, and which remote sensing or spectroscopic technologies have been used. We found that laboratory or in situ measured spectra of over 70 lichen species have been reported to date. We show that studies on remote sensing of lichens fall under seven broad themes: (1) collection of lichen spectra for quantification of lichen species or characteristics, (2) pollution monitoring with lichens as ecological indicators, (3) geological and lithological mapping, (4) desert and dryland monitoring, (5) animal habitat monitoring, (6) land cover or vegetation mapping, and (7) surface energy budget modeling.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11110
Number of pages16
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024
MoE publication typeA2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review


  • airborne
  • biocrust
  • cryptogam
  • lichen
  • reflectance
  • satellite image
  • spectra
  • UAV


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