• The Cathedral Group from the Teton Park Road

    Grand Teton

    National Park Wyoming

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Seasonal road closures in effect

    Seasonal road closures are in effect for motorized vehicles. The Teton Park Road is closed from the Taggart Lake Trailhead to the Signal Mountain Lodge. The Moose-Wilson Road is closed from the Granite Canyon Trailhead to the Death Canyon Road. More »

  • Avalanche hazards exist in the park

    Avalanche hazards exist in the park, especially in mountain canyons and on exposed slopes. A daily avalanche forecast can be found at www.jhavalanche.org or by calling (307) 733-2664. More »

  • Bears emerging from hibernation

    Bears are beginning to emerge from hibernation. Travel in groups of three of more, make noise and carry bear spray. Visitors must stay at least 100 yards from bears. 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?

Close-up of trumpeter swan head

Did you know that Grand Teton National Park is home to the largest bird in North America? The Trumpeter Swan weighs 20-30 pounds and lives in the valley year-round in quiet open water.