Just Stop Oil protesters endanger rare lichen after vandalizing Stonehenge

Rare variations of plant organisms, known as lichen, may have been damaged during a Just Stop Oil-orchestrated vandalism on Stonehenge, according to experts cited in local media. 

The vandalism saw activists for the environmentalist protest group pour what the group claimed was orange cornflour over the historic site – which houses rare variations of lichen. 

“The orange cornflour we used will soon wash away with the rain, but the urgent need for effective government action to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the climate and ecological crisis will not.” Just Stop Oil posted on X in response to a vandalism video. 

The post was quickly  “community-noted” with articles indicating that damage sustained during the vandalism may not just “wash away with the rain.”

Backing up the concerns raised by the community notes, Stonehenge volunteer Tim Daw told BBC Breakfast that he conducted a minor experiment proving that the action displaced lichen. 

Just Stop Oil features Stonehenge vandalism on X profile. (credit: SCREENSHOT/JUST STOP OIL)

Using a formula similar to the one used by the activists, Daw said he applied it to rocks similar to those at the site. He found that lichen had been displaced after the cornflour had been washed away.

Daw said the lichen may also take a long time to recover from the incident as it is a “very, very rare plant organism that grows on rocks, ” which “takes hundreds of years to grow because there’s no nutrition.”

How has Just Stop Oil reacted to the news they may have endangered lichen?

The group has continued to advertise the vandalism as a success, making an image of the incident a strong feature of their X profile. 

The group also announced on X that they would sell prints of the incident. Their website lists the prints at a cost of NIS 243 or $65. 

The group also shared X posts mocking those expressing concern for the lichen, with one person sharing a photo of people touching the rocks with the caption “but what about the lichen?!?”