Dispersal of lichens along a successional gradient after deglaciation of volcanic mesas on northern James Ross Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Abstract

Aerial dispersal in the colonization of bare ground by lichens in the polar regions remains poorly understood. Potential colonists may arrive continually, although extreme abiotic conditions limit their viability. We investigated the vegetative dispersal of Antarctic macrolichens along a successional gradient (from 8.6–7.0 ka BP up to present) after glacial retreat on James Ross Island, in the Antarctic Peninsula region. We collected lichen fragments by means of sticky traps glued on the ground and exposed for 1 year. Foliose or fruticose growth types were the most frequently recorded species (namely Usnea spp. and Leptogium puberulum) together with widely distributed fungi mycelia, while crustose lichens were not found. Although these two lichen species are also locally the most common, their frequency of occurrence in the traps was largely unrelated to local dominance, indicating long-distance dispersal. On the other hand, the dispersed community assembly was related to overall lichen cover and ground physical structure (clast size). There was a gradient of species occurrence frequency increasing with maximal clast size and distance from the glacier front. These results imply that there is no dispersal limitation (at least for certain lichen species) in the colonization of newly deglaciated substrates at the regional scale on James Ross Island. However, lichen establishment is rather rare, and growth of a lichen community is therefore a long-term process.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic: (1) no. LM2015078 Czech Polar Research Infrastructure, (2) no. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_013/0001708 ECOPOLARIS, (3) Masaryk University project no. MUNI/A/1370/2014, and (4) by the institutional long-term research plan no. RVO 67985939 of the Institute of Botany ASCR. We are very grateful to the members of the summer 2008–2009 expeditions at the Johann Gregor Mendel Station for their company and field assistance. Language correction was carried out by Dr. Keith Edwards. We are indebted to three anonymous reviewers and the editor for providing constructive comments, which substantially helped improve the quality of the paper.

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O.B., J.E. K.L. and L.N. performed the field experiments, O.R. and P.M. provided molecular and statistical analyses, respectively. P.M, J.E. and L.N. wrote the manuscript. J.E. coordinated project.

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Correspondence to Josef Elster.

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Bohuslavová, O., Macek, P., Redčenko, O. et al. Dispersal of lichens along a successional gradient after deglaciation of volcanic mesas on northern James Ross Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biol 41, 2221–2232 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-018-2357-7

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Keywords

  • Antarctic
  • James Ross Island
  • Macrolichen community assembly
  • Lichen functional traits
  • Local species pool
  • Soredia
  • Fragments of thalli