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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Large-scale patterns of epiphytic lichen species richness: Photobiont-dependent response to climate and forest structure

Marini, Lorenzo; Nascimbene, Juri; Nimis, Pier Luigi


Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic association of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner. Although the photobiont type is a key life-history trait, tests of the potential differential role of the main photobiont types in shaping large-scale patterns of lichen species richness are still absent. The aim of the study was to test the influences of forest structure and climate on epiphytic lichen species richness across Italy and to see whether these relationships change for groups of species sharing different photobiont types. Regional species richness of epiphytic lichens divided into three main photobiont types (i.e. chlorococcoid green algae, cyanobacteria, and Trentepohlia algae) was retrieved for each of the 20 administrative regions. Multiple linear regression was used to quantify the effect of climate and forest structure, and their potential interaction, on the regional species richness for the three photobiont types, accounting also for the effect of regional area. Regional species richness was associated with both climate and forest structure variables but the relationships with both factors were largely photobiont dependent. Regional area and precipitation were the only predictors included in all the models, confirming the strong dependence of lichens on atmospheric water supply, irrespective of the photobiont type. Number of species with chlorococcoid green algae were further positively associated with cover of high forest, whilst lichens with Trentepohlia were further enhanced by warm temperatures. Cyanolichen species richness was only related to area and precipitation. Our study shed light on the relative importance of climate and forest structure on lichen species richness patterns at the macroscale, showing a differential response of the photobiont types to various environmental determinants. This differential response suggested that the current and future impacts of global change on lichens cannot be generalized and that species richness response will be likely dependent on the photobiont type. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Cyanolichens; Forest management; Life-history traits; Mediterranean forest; Trentepohlia; Water-energy dynamics

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2011, volume: 409, number: 20, pages: 4381-4386

Authors' information

Marini, Lorenzo
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Nascimbene, Juri
Nimis, Pier Luigi

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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