4 years ago

Epiphytes in wooded pastures: Isolation matters for lichen but not for bryophyte species richness

Ariel Bergamini, Christoph Scheidegger, Thomas Kiebacher, Christine Keller

by Thomas Kiebacher, Christine Keller, Christoph Scheidegger, Ariel Bergamini

Sylvo-pastoral systems are species-rich man-made landscapes that are currently often severely threatened by abandonment or management intensification. At low tree densities, single trees in these systems represent habitat islands for epiphytic cryptogams. Here, we focused on sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) wooded pastures in the northern European Alps. We assessed per tree species richness of bryophytes and lichens on 90 sycamore maple trees distributed across six study sites. We analysed the effects of a range of explanatory variables (tree characteristics, environmental variables and isolation measures) on the richness of epiphytic bryophytes and lichens and various functional subgroups (based on diaspore size, habitat preference and red list status). Furthermore, we estimated the effect of these variables on the occurrence of two specific bryophyte species (Tayloria rudolphiana, Orthotrichum rogeri) and one lichen species (Lobaria pulmonaria) of major conservation concern. Bryophytes and lichens, as well as their subgroups, were differently and sometimes contrastingly affected by the variables considered: tree diameter at breast height had no significant effect on bryophytes but negatively affected many lichen groups; tree phenological age positively affected red-listed lichens but not red-listed bryophytes; increasing isolation from neighbouring trees negatively affected lichens but not bryophytes. However, the high-priority bryophyte species T. rudolphiana was also negatively affected by increased isolation at small spatial scales. Orthotrichum rogeri was more frequent on young trees and L. pulmonaria was more frequent on trees with thin stems and large crowns. The results indicate that local dispersal is important for lichens, whereas long distance dispersal seems to be more important for colonisation by bryophytes. Furthermore, our study highlights that different conservation measures need to be taken depending on the taxonomic and functional species group or the individual species that is addressed. In practice, for the conservation of a high overall richness in sylvo-pastoral systems, it is crucial to sustain not only old and large trees but rather a wide range of tree sizes and ages.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182065

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