Crustose Lichen Stage - Xerarch
On bare rocks, conditions are inhospitable for life, as there is extreme deficiency of water and nutrients, great exposure to sun, and extremes of temperature. Crustose lichens alone are usually able to grow in such situations. Some examples of these pioneering species are, Rhizocarpon, Rhinodina, Lecidea and Lecanora. These plants flourish during periods of wet weather and remain in a state of desiccation for very long periods during drought. During the wet weather they rapidly absorb moisture by their sponge-like action. Mineral nutrients are obtained by the secretion of carbon dioxide which, with water forms a weak acid that slowly eats into the rock into which the rhizoids sometimes penetrate for a distance of several millimetres.
Nitrogen is brought by rain or by wind-blown dust. Thus all the life requirements of this simple, crust-like species is met with. Thus, lichens help corrode and decompose the rock, supplementing the other forces of weathering. And by mixing the rock particles with their own remains, make conditions favourable for - growth of other organisms. Thus, a thin layer of soil is formed. The rapidity with which a small amount of soil is formed is controlled largely by the nature of the rock and by the climate. On quartzite or basalt rocks in a dry climate, the crustose-lichen stage might persist for hundreds of years. But on limestone or sandstone in a moist climate, sufficient changes permit the invasion of foliose lichens, and all this may occur within a life time.