Lichen and Mycorrhizae

Difference Between Lichen and Mycorrhizae

A brief overview of Lichen and Mycorrhizae

Lichen: Lichens are unique organisms formed through mutualistic interactions between fungal species (mycobiont) and algae or cyanobacterial counterparts (photobiont). Lichen is found in various environments including rocks trees and soil and there are three primary forms: Foliose (crusty), Foliose (leafy), and Fruticose (shrubby).

Lichen serves as an ecological indicator, responding quickly and sensitively to changes in its surroundings and providing insight into air quality assessments. Lichen also plays an integral part in soil development processes while providing food sources for many organisms that rely on it as sustenance.

Mycorrhizae: Mycorrhizae are symbiotic Relationships between mycobionts and Vascular plants roots systems where mycorrhizae reside this allows for exchanges of nutrients between Lichen and Mycorrhizae parties involved, providing many forms of mycorrhizae that provide various levels of protection and nutrition exchanges.

There are various kinds of mycorrhizae. These include mycorrhizae that form sheathes around roots – usually found on trees – and arbuscular mycorrhizae which penetrate root cells, becoming widespread and present across many plant species.

Orchid mycorrhizae have an unusual relationship to their hosts: these particular fungi form an intimate partnership. Mycorrhizae enhance the absorption of nutrients by host plants, particularly phosphorus. They play a significant role in increasing plant growth, survival, and resilience to stress as well as playing an instrumental role in soil fertility, nutrient cycling and ecosystem wellbeing.

What exactly is Lichen?

Lichen refers to an organism formed through an interaction between algae/cyanobacterium and Fungi. One party produces food via photosynthesis while the second absorbs moisture and provides shelter – similar to how Photobiont provides additional photosynthesis within lichen ecosystem.

Figure 01: Lichen

Photosynthesis is responsible for producing carbohydrates and food sources through photosynthesis. Both green algae and Cyanobacterium contain chlorophyll that facilitate photosynthesis. As for green algae and cyanobacteria, green algae appear more involved in creating long lichen with fungi formation than their blue-green cousins, Mycobiont fungus being its fungal partner responsible for absorption of water and providing shade to photobiont cells.

Ascomycetes and basidiomycetes fungi typically form part of an interdependent relationship with algae or cyanobacteria; while in lichen there will only ever be one type of visible fungus present – often one belonging to ascomycetes or basidiomycetes.

Lichens can be found growing on tree bark, exposed rocks and organic soil elements. Furthermore, these microscopic organisms have proven resilient enough to withstand even extreme environments like freezing Norths, desert climates with hot desert beaches as well as beaches that contain rock formations – providing numerous important roles. Lichens provide several essential services.

Lichens have an extraordinary sense of awareness regarding their environment and can effectively detect issues like pollution, ozone loss and metal contamination with amazing accuracy. Furthermore, these indicators also produce natural antibiotics which can be utilized in medicine production as well as dyes, perfumes and herbal medications made out of them.

What exactly are Mycorrhizae?

Mycorrhizae are an example of mutualistic relationships; these occur between roots of higher plants and certain fungal species found within their root zone, without harm to those roots; in return, higher plants provide food to feed this relationship while the fungal species consume nutrients from soil to absorb more moisture and provide sustenance to survive.

Mycorrhizae are vital players in maintaining ecological equilibrium; when plant roots cannot access essential nutrients they require for survival, the fungal hyphae may travel far distances to bring water and essential elements like potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrogen directly to their roots. This interaction benefits both parties involved.

Therefore, symptoms of deficient nutrition tend not to show in plants which participate in this symbiotic relationship. Around 85% of plants that possess vascular connections also possess endomycorrhizal connections which provide protection from pathogens that cause root diseases – making mycorrhizae an integral component of ecosystems.

Endomycorrhizae and Ectomycorrhizae are two primary species of mycorrhizae. Ectomycorrhizae have no ability to form arbuscules or vesicles and their hyphae cannot penetrate into the cortex in plant roots, while Endomycorrhizae do. Ocycorrhizae are essential in helping plants access nutrients in the soil as well as protecting roots from pathogens that could otherwise damage roots.

Figure 02: Mycorrhizae

With endomycorrhizae fungal hyphae, fungal hyphae enter plant roots through their cortexes and develop into arbuscules or vesicles – providing plants with both nutrition and protection from potential pathogens that cause root damage.

Endomycorrhizae are more prevalent than their counterpart ectomycorrhizae. Fungi from Ascomycota and Basidiomycota contribute to creating an ectomycorrhizal relationship; while Glomeromycota-derived fungi form endomycorrhizae.

Differences between Lichen and Mycorrhizae

Lichen and Mycorrhizae are two distinct symbiotic relationships involving fungi, but they differ in several key aspects:

1. Symbiotic Relationships in Context:

Lichen: Lichen A lichen is the result of the cooperative efforts between fungi and their algal/cyanobacterial partners; both parties benefit from this alliance.

Mycorrhizae: Mycorrhizae are mutualistic relationships between fungi and plant roots; in exchange, carbohydrates from plants provide food sources for these fungi while they assist plants with taking up essential nutrients more easily.

2. Components of Symbiotic Relationship:

Lichen: Lichen consists of a fungal component (mycobiont) and an algal or cyanobacterial component (photobiont). The fungal partner provides structural support and protection, while the photosynthetic partner produces food through photosynthesis.

Mycorrhizae: Mycorrhizae are formed when two Organisms join forces: mycobiont fungi and host plants (also referred to as host plants). Fungal hyphae expand their reach deep within plant roots creating a network that improves the absorption of essential nutrients by the host.

3. Types and Structures:

Lichen: Lichens can take many different forms, from crustose (crusty) to leafy and even shrubby forms that thrive on trees, rocks, and soil surfaces.

Mycorrhizae: Mycorrhizae come in various forms such as Ectomycorrhizae and Arbuscular Mycorrhizae. Ectomycorrhizae form an outer sheath around tree roots while arbuscular mycorrhizae are present throughout a wide variety of plant species – though typically found only within trees themselves.

4. Ecological Role and Importance of Environment:

Lichen: Lichen provides an important ecological role as an indicator of environmental quality; as its lifecycle responds directly to air pollution as well as changes in environmental conditions, Lichen plays an integral part in soil development while providing food sources for many organisms that live on its surface.

Mycorrhizae: Mycorrhizae are essential in Providing plants with access to essential nutrients like phosphorus that they require. They aid the plants’ survival against stress as well as contribute to soil fertility, nutrient cycle management, and ecosystem health overall.

Lichens and mycorrhizae both exist as mutualistic partnerships between fungi and algal or cyanobacterial species; while lichens rely on mutualistic interactions between plant roots and mycorrhizae for sustenance.

Lichens create distinct structures on surfaces while mycorrhizae aid in exchanging nutrients between the Lichen and Mycorrhizae entities – each is ecologically significant in different ways, as their role depends on interactions within natural ecosystems.

Comparative Charts of Lichen and Mycorrhizae

This chart compares the major differences between Lichen and Mycorrhizae:

Topics Lichen Mycorrhizae
What is the nature of symbiotic relationships Mutualistic Mutualistic
The components of the Symbiotic Relationship Fungus (mycobiont) as well as algal or cyanobacterial companion (photobiont) Fungal (mycobiont) along with plant companion (host plant)
Structures and Types Crustose, foliose, fruticose lichen Ectomycorrhizae Arbuscular mycorrhizae orchid mycorrhizae
Nutrient Exchange Carbohydrates in photobiont from Fungus Improved uptake of nutrients for the host plant
The Ecological Roles and the Relevance Environmental indicator, soil formation, food source Nutrient cycling, plant growth enhancement, soil fertility
Distribution and Diversity It is found in a variety of habitats A wide-spread presence, it coevolved with different host plants

Similarities Between Lichen and Mycorrhizae

Although Lichen and Mycorrhizae have different partners, they do share certain similarities:

1. Symbiotic Nature: Both Lichen and Mycorrhizae are forms of mutualistic associations involving fungi with other living organisms that benefit mutually from one another’s presence. All parties involved benefit equally from being in such partnerships.

2. Fungal Component: Fungi are integral parts of both lichens and mycorrhizae. In mycorrhizae-rich environments such as lichen mycorrhizae, mycobiont is often present, providing structure as well as protection. Meanwhile in root system mycorrhizae the same mycobiont can facilitate exchanges for nutrients exchange between plants and microbes.

3. Nutrient Exchange: As is true of mycorrhizae, the exchange of nutrients between Lichen and Mycorrhizae requires exchanging resources among partners; specifically algae/cyanobacterial partners in lichen are responsible for photosynthesis as they supply carbohydrate-rich photobiont to mycorrhizae hyphae which increase uptake of host plant nutrients such as phosphorus from them while receiving energy-rich carbs from plants themselves.

4. Environmental Significance: Lichen and Mycorrhizae play critical ecological functions that include the cycling and development of nutrients; soil development; overall ecosystem health improvement, indicator species to measure air quality. Lichen also serves as an early warning system; its presence can serve to strengthen resilience among plants against stressors like drought. Mycorrhizae provide aid for plant growth as they support resilience against environmental stresses like drought.

5. Distribution and Diversity: Lichen and Mycorrhizae have an immense diversity across ecosystems. Found across habitats of every sort, these Lichen and Mycorrhizae groups coevolve with various hosts to produce the widest array of species possible in both groups.

Lichen and Mycorrhizae may differ in structure and ecological function; however they share a host of symbiotic relationships such as nutrient exchange and ecological significance that demonstrate their significance in nature and ecosystem functioning. Such similarities highlight how important such relationships can be.


Lichen and Mycorrhizae offer fascinating examples of natural symbioses in nature, showing both how these relationships influence each organism as well as any associated benefits.

Lichen, created through an interdependent relationship between fungus and alga/cyanobacterial partners, can be found across many habitats and varieties. Lichen serves as an indicator of environmental conditions by aiding soil development while providing food sources to local organisms and providing an indicator of ecological changes. Lichen’s unique design highlights their interdependence.

Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi-plant relationships which form through mutualistic connections between fungi and root of plants. Mycorrhizae promote the exchange of nutrients that ultimately increases absorption by host plant as a whole while simultaneously taking in carbohydrates for storage purposes by Mycorrhizae themselves.