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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

The non-native Quercus rubra does not substitute the native Quercus robur and Q. petraea as substrate for epiphytic lichens and bryophytes

Gustafsson, Lena; Franzen, Markus; Sunde, Johanna; Johansson, Victor


Climate change will cause alterations in tree species ranges. Non-native tree species are likely to be increasingly used in production forests, due to their often better adaptation to a warmer climate and their lower susceptibility to pests and pathogens. Trees form an important habitat for numerous species, many of which are more or less specialised regarding tree species. Thus, the tree-associated flora and fauna may be heavily impacted if nonnative trees replace native ones. Risk assessments from the introduction of non-native trees must rest on a solid knowledge base, including insights into the potential of such trees to function as biodiversity substitutes, i. e. to host similar biodiversity as closely related native tree species. In a study in temperate Sweden, we inventoried epiphytic lichens and bryophytes on ten random trees in each of 28 stands (14 stands of North American red oak Quercus rubra and 14 stands of native oak Q. robur/petraea), to compare species richness and composition. Overall, 101 lichen taxa and 35 bryophyte taxa were identified, and we found a generally higher diversity for native oak. The regional species richness (gamma diversity) for both lichens and bryophytes was higher in native oak than in red oak, and the lichen species richness at stand level (alpha diversity) was nearly significantly higher. Lichen composition differed between the two oak species, while there was no difference for bryophytes. More lichens were strongly associated with native oak than red oak, while most bryophyte species were generalists with no specific preference for either oak taxa. Bark structure was an important explanatory variable separating the lichen epiphytes, with species preferring smooth bark largely confined to red oak. In conclusion, our study suggests that substituting native oak with red oak could have adverse consequences for epiphytic lichen populations associated with native oak, resulting in a decline of several species. However, certain lichen and bryophyte species were exclusively found on Q. rubra, implying that incorporating a proportion of red oak stands in southern Swedish landscapes may enhance diversity. Further research is needed to explore the overlap between species associated with Q. rubra and other deciduous tree species that possess similar smooth bark. Our findings indicate that red oak may not be an appropriate alternative host tree for epiphytic lichens typically found on native oak, while the implications for bryophytes remain less clear.


Biodiversity; Bark; Exotic tree; Forest; Indigenous tree; Invasive; Microhabitat; Oak

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2023, Volume: 549, article number: 121482Publisher: ELSEVIER

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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