Influence of tree age, tree size and crown structure on lichen communities in mature Alpine spruce forests

Nascimbene, Juri; Marini, Lorenzo; Motta, Renzo; Nimis, Pier Luigi
June 2009
Biodiversity & Conservation;Jun2009, Vol. 18 Issue 6, p1509
Academic Journal
Testing the relations between tree parameters and the richness and composition of lichen communities in near-natural stands could be a first step to gather information for forest managers interested in conservation and in biodiversity assessment and monitoring. This work aims at evaluating the influence of tree age and age-related parameters on tree-level richness and community composition of lichens on spruce in an Alpine forest. The lichen survey was carried out in four sites used for long-term monitoring. In each site, tree age, diameter at breast height, tree height, the first branch height, and crown projection area were measured for each tree. Trees were stratified into three age classes: (1) <100 years old, immature trees usually not suitable for felling, (2) 100-200 years old, mature trees suitable for felling, and (3) >200 years old, over-mature trees normally rare or absent in managed stands. In each site, seven trees in each age class were selected randomly. Tree age and related parameters proved to influence both tree-level species richness and composition of lichen communities. Species richness increased with tree age and related parameters indicative of tree size. This relation could be interpreted as the result of different joint effects of age per se and tree size with its area-effect. Species turnover is also suspected to improve species richness on over-mature trees. Similarly to species richness, tree-level species composition can be partially explained by tree-related parameters. Species composition changed from young to old trees, several lichens being associated with over-mature trees. This pool of species, including nationally rare lichens, represents a community which is probably poorly developed in managed forests. In accordance to the general aims of near-to-nature forestry, the presence of over-mature trees should be enhanced in the future forest landscape of the Alps especially in protected areas and Natura 2,000 sites, where conservation purposes are explicitly included in the management guidelines.


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