John McIlroy de la Rosa
B.Sc. Geography with Extended Studies in Europe (1st Class Hons), Queen’s University Belfast (2009)
Room 02 010, Elmwood Building,
School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)
Queen's University Belfast
Belfast BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK
‘The contradictory role of lichen in the weathering of limestone’
Until recently, the biological weathering capabilities of lichens were thought to be insignificant on all but the geological time scale. With advances in technologies, such as scanning electron microscopy, recent research has shown that these symbiotic organisms can be significant contributors to biodeterioration and pedogenesis within relatively short time scales. Geomorphologically, lichens have been linked with a range of nanomorphologies formed by biogeophysical and biogeochemical processes associated with lichen activity. However, in environments where inorganic weathering processes are intense, lichens have also been linked with active and passive bioprotection of the rock surface.
A problem that is at the forefront of weathering studies is assessing the relationship of morphological features at different scales. Focusing on smaller scales has led to the problem of how to up-scale observations made at the microscopic level and link the formation of (and processes governing) nanomorphologies to the micro and mesomorphologies of the weathering landform scale. The aim of this research project is to explain how nano and micro scale weathering associated with lichen growth contributes to the development of solutional karst at a meso scale under varying environmental conditions. Variation in environmental conditions will be achieved by carrying out field work in geographically distinct locations with similar lithologies: Sierra de Loja (Granada); Sierra de Tramuntana (Mallorca); and The Burren, (Co. Clare). This project also aims, through both field and lab work, to understand the complex interactions between the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that cause species to shift between bioprotection and biodeterioration.
The intended outcome of the project is a conceptual model detailing the interactions between lichen weathering and limestone solution at different temporal and spatial scales. This research project has applications for the built environment, especially in heritage conservation.
Dr Patricia Warke
Prof Bernie Smith
Winner of the Estyn Evans Dissertation Prize (2009)
Runner-up of the Sarah M Holland Prize (2009)
Member of the British Society for Geomorphology