Growth and vitality of epiphytic lichens

Research paper by K.-E. Renhorn, Per-Anders Esseen, Kristin Palmqvist, Bodil Sundberg

Indexed on: 01 Dec '96Published on: 01 Dec '96Published in: Oecologia


 We tested the hypothesis that changed microclimate at induced forest edges causes reduced growth of epiphytic lichens. Two foliose, green algal lichens were transplanted to the lower canopy of a mature Picea abies forest at six distances (2, 6.25, 12.5, 25, 50 and 100 m) from a clearcut. The biomass growth in Platismatia glauca (6.2% in 16 months) was 41% higher than in Lobaria pulmonaria (4.4%). We found no growth reduction near the forest edge. In contrast, the highest growth in both species occurred within 12 m from the edge. Further, fluorescence and chlorophyll measurements showed that lichen vitality was unaffected by distance from edge. The light intensity was 4.3 times higher at the edge than in the interior during the growing season, but there were only minor differences in air temperature and relative humidity. Monitoring of thallus water content revealed clear differences in both number and length of wetting and drying cycles. However, the total time with water content sufficient for photosynthetic activity was only slightly higher at the edge. The data thus indicate that our gradient in microclimate was too small to significantly affect lichen growth, and that lichens are largely metabolically inactive when large edge-interior contrasts in microclimate occur. Lichen response to forest edge microclimate results from intricate interactions among several biotic and abiotic factors. Linking data on lichen growth, microclimate and thallus water content with physiological measurements provides a framework for future studies of the mechanisms behind abiotic edge effects.