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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Conifer tree species and age as drivers of epiphytic lichen communities in northern European production forests

Petersson, Lisa; Lariviere, Delphine; Holmstrom, Emma; Fritz, Orjan; Felton, Adam


The epiphytic lichen species richness and community composition was compared for 600 living trees distributed within the interior of 60 Scots pine and Norway spruce monoculture stands in southern Sweden. A higher species richness, and more unique species, was found on trees of Scots pine than of Norway spruce, and distinctive communities were associated with the two tree species. Lichen species composition also shifted between the 30-, 55- and 80-year-old stands, although there was no significant difference in species richness between the different age classes. Tree species and age of the stand explained most of the variation in community composition (41%), with additional variance explained by lichen proximity to the ground (6%) and aspect (1%) (northern/southern side of trunk). Scots pine and Norway spruce share many attributes, such as both being conifers with acidic bark properties and having a similar geographical distribution in Fennoscandia. However, our study showed that species richness and community composition can nevertheless diverge in stands dominated by these two tree species. Since the occurrence of red-listed species was low in these stands, we suggest that 80-year rotations are not long enough for the occurrence of the many rare and specialized lichen species that require old forest structures and long forest continuity in this region.


biodiversity; forest management; Norway spruce; Picea abies; Pinus sylvestris; Scots pine; species richness; stand age; Sweden; zonation

Published in

2022, Volume: 54, number: 3-4, article number: PII S0024282922000172