How to measure air pollutants? Easy! With state-of-the-art technical equipment. Nature, however, can also be an important indicator of Berlin’s air quality – based on bioindicators, i.e. certain animal or plant species acting as living gauges.

Lichens are one example. We often see them as colourful spots on trees, walls or facades. Some types are sensitive to air pollution, causing them to fade or die. Lichens can be used as bioindicators if their pollutant tolerance has been established. Besides lichens, there are other living indicators, including ryegrass and kale. A distinction is made between accumulation indicators, which store pollutants without any evident changes in their metabolism, and response indicators, which show signs of cell changes or damage even after the intake of small amounts of pollutants.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the effects of immission, i.e. the impact of pollutants, were comprehensively investigated using bioindicators. This process lasted several years and was part of developing a database focussing on effects. We have made the measurement results available for you here. They are a great addition to the immission data collected with our technical equipment and identify unique regional pollution patterns for Berlin.