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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Tree age is a key factor for the conservation of epiphytic lichens and bryophytes in beech forests

Fritz, Örjan; Niklasson, Mats; Churski, Marcin


Questions: What factors limit the distribution of epiphytic lichens and bryophytes at plot and tree level in beech forests? At what ages do epiphytic species, and species of conservation concern in particular, occur along a chronosequence of beech?Location: South-west Sweden.Method: Five hundred and seventy-one age-determined trees from 37 plots distributed among 29 beech-dominated stands were Surveyed along with a number of environmental (16) and substrate (seven) variables in a landscape of ca. 550ha. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMS) and indicator species analysis (ISA) were used for data analysis.Results: Plots containing old trees, confined to the base of slopes and with low impacts of recent forestry (thinning), generally had a high richness of species of conservation concern. Richness of common species and red-listed bryophytes were mostly related to the surveyed bark area. At tree level, primary factors explaining both species richness and composition were age, diameter at breast height and moss cover. There was a gradual replacement of tree age ranges for 58 lichens and 37 bryophytes along the chronosequence of beech. Red-listed lichens favoured damaged beech trees ( >= 180 years), whereas red-listed bryophytes were found on old and young steins in dense stands.Conclusions: Tree age exerts a profound influence on epiphytic lichens and bryophytes growing on beech. Many of the habitat specialists were found mainly on old beech because they inhabit specific substrates that occur on older trees. The association to high tree age commonly excludes red-listed lichens from conventionally managed beech forests with a 100- to 140-year rotation period.


Biskopstorp; Dendrochronology; Fagus sylvatica; Non-Parametric Multivariate Analysis; Red-Listed Species; Substrate Quality

Published in

Applied Vegetation Science
2009, Volume: 12, number: 1, pages: 93-106