Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 1943–1958 | Cite as

Old trees as a key source of epiphytic lichen persistence and spatial distribution in mountain Norway spruce forests

  • Lucie Zemanová
  • Volodymyr Trotsiuk
  • Robert C. Morrissey
  • Radek Bače
  • Martin Mikoláš
  • Miroslav Svoboda
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Forest and plantation biodiversity


Habitat loss and fragmentation can negatively impact the persistence of dispersal-limited lichen species with narrow niches. Rapid change in microclimate due to canopy dieback exposes species to additional stressors that may limit their capacity to survive and colonize. We studied the importance of old trees as micro-refuges and microclimate stability in maintaining lichen survival and diversity. The study was situated in mountain Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests of the Gorgany Mountains of the Ukrainian Carpathian mountain belt. Lichens were collected on 13 circular study plots (1000 m2). Dendrochronological methods were used to reconstruct age structure and maximum disturbance event history. A linear mixed effects model and general additive models were used to explain patterns and variability of lichens based on stand age and disturbance history for each plot. Tree age was the strongest variable influencing lichen diversity and composition. Recent (<80 years ago) severely disturbed plots were colonized only by the most common species, however, old trees (>200 years old) that survived the disturbances served as microrefuges for the habitat-specialized and/or dispersal limited species, thus epiphytic lichen biodiversity was markedly higher on those plots in comparison to plots without any old trees. Most species were able to survive microclimatic change after disturbances, or recolonize disturbed patches from surrounding old-growth forests. We concluded that the survival of old trees after disturbances could maintain and/or recover large portions of epiphytic lichen biodiversity even in altered microclimates.


Biodiversity Colonization Forest continuity Microclimate Species refuges Tree age 



This work was supported by the Czech Science Foundation project (GACR 15-14840S) and the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague (CIGA No. 20154316, IGA No. B02/15 and IGA 20124262). We would like to thank the Ukrainian National Forestry University and the Gorgany forestry enterprise for administrative and technical support in collecting the data. Special thanks to Zdeněk Palice for help reviewing and revising the lichenological material.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Faculty of Environmental SciencesCzech University of Life SciencesPragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Forest Ecology, Faculty of Forestry and Wood ScienceCzech University of Life SciencesPragueCzech Republic

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