A Pine Is a Pine and a Spruce Is a Spruce--The Effect of Tree Species and Stand Age on Epiphytic Lichen Communities

PLoS One. 2016 Jan 22;11(1):e0147004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147004. eCollection 2016.


With an increasing demand for forest-based products, there is a growing interest in introducing fast-growing non-native tree species in forest management. Such introductions often have unknown consequences for native forest biodiversity. In this study, we examine epiphytic lichen species richness and species composition on the trunks of non-native Pinus contorta and compare these to the native Pinus sylvestris and Picea abies in managed boreal forests in northern Sweden across a chronosequence of age classes. Overall, we recorded a total of 66,209 lichen occurrences belonging to 57 species in the 96 studied forest stands. We found no difference in species richness of lichens between stands of P. contorta and P. sylvestris, but stands of P. abies had higher total species richness. However, species richness of lichens in stands of P. abies decreased with increasing stand age, while no such age effect was detected for P. contorta and P. sylvestris. Lichen species composition progressively diverged with increasing stand age, and in 30-year-old stands all three tree species showed species-specific assemblages. Epiphytic lichen assemblages in stands of 30-year-old P. contorta were influenced by greater basal area, canopy closure, and average diameter at breast height, P. abies stands by higher branch density and canopy closure, and stands of P. sylvestris by greater bark crevice depth. Differences in lichen species richness and composition were mainly explained by canopy closure and habitat availability, and the greater canopy closure in mature P. abies stands promoted the colonization and growth of calicioid lichen species. Our results indicate that the non-native P. contorta have similar species richness as the native P. sylvestris. The main difference in lichen species richness and composition is between P. abies and Pinus spp. in managed forests of boreal Sweden.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Lichens / growth & development*
  • Picea*
  • Pinus*
  • Species Specificity

Grant support

The work was mainly funded by "Stiftelsen Oscar och Lili Lamms minne", grant number D02008-0003 (http://www.stiftelsenlamm.a.se/). Additional funding for field work was provided by "The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences", grant number FOA10H-155 (http://www.kva.se/sv/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.