• The Cathedral Group from the Teton Park Road

    Grand Teton

    National Park Wyoming

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  • Bears are active in Grand Teton

    Black and grizzly bears are roaming throughout the park--near roads, trails and in backcountry areas. Hikers and backcountry users are advised to travel in groups of three or more, make noise and carry bear spray. Visitors must stay 100 yards from bears. More »

  • Area closure in the area around Baxter's Pinnacle

    An area closure is in effect around Baxter's Pinnacle to protect nesting peregrine falcons. This closure precludes any climbs of Baxter's Pinnacle and usage of the walk-off gully. This closure will be in effect through 8-15-2013. More »

Lichens

Lichen
Lichens play a unique role in the ecosystem. They secrete acids that break down rock material and slowly create new soil.
 

Growing only millimeters a year, some lichens are thought to be the oldest living things on Earth. Lichens are not single organisms, but rather a partnership, or mutualistic symbiosis, between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. The fungus builds the body of the lichen while the alga or cyanobacteria live within this structure and are photosynthetic, producing energy and nutrients for both organisms. This partnership allows lichens to colonize harsh environments such as the alpine areas of Grand Teton National Park.

Acids secreted by lichens dissolve the surface of the substrate they grow on. This, along with their action of infiltrating and wedging apart pieces of rock, are the beginnings of soil formation. Lichens serve as food in times of stress for many organisms including bighorn sheep, elk, and humans. Many birds also use lichens for nest building.

Many lichen species are highly sensitive to air quality; therefore, they are vulnerable to habitat alteration and serve as useful bio-indicators. The presence or absence of lichens in an area is a good indication of the area's air quality. Lichens absorb air pollution and heavy metals from their surrounding environment. Analyzing the pollutants absorbed by lichens allows scientists to determine the amount and kinds of air pollutants and how far they have traveled.

Did You Know?

Tetons from the north, photo by Erin Himmel

Did you know that a large fault lies at the base of the Teton Range? Every few thousand years earthquakes up to a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter Scale signal movement on the Teton fault, lifting the mountains skyward and hinging the valley floor downward.