Belinchón, Rocío and Martínez, Isabel and Aragón, Gregorio and Escudero, Adrián and Cruz Rot, Marcelino de la
Fine spatial pattern of an epiphytic lichen species is affected by habitat conditions in two forest types in the Iberian Mediterranean region.
"Fungal Biology Reviews", v. 115
Persistence and abundance of species is determined by habitat availability and the ability to disperse and colonize habitats at contrasting spatial scales. Favourable habitat fragments are also heterogeneous in quality, providing differing opportunities for establishment and affecting the population dynamics of a species. Based on these principles, we suggest that the presence and abundance of epiphytes may reflect their dispersal ability, which is primarily determined by the spatial structure of host trees, but also by host quality. To our knowledge there has been no explicit test of the importance of host tree spatial pattern for epiphytes in Mediterranean forests. We hypothesized that performance and host occupancy in a favourable habitat depend on the spatial pattern of host trees, because this pattern affects the dispersal ability of each epiphyte and it also determines the availability of suitable sites for establishment. We tested this hypothesis using new point pattern analysis tools and generalized linear mixed models to investigate the spatial distribution and performance of the epiphytic lichen Lobaria pulmonaria, which inhabits two types of host trees (beeches and Iberian oaks). We tested the effects on L. pulmonaria distribution of tree size, spatial configuration, and host tree identity. We built a model including tree size, stand structure, and several neighbourhood predictors to understand the effect of host tree on L. pulmonaria. We also investigated the relative importance of spatial patterning on the presence and abundance of the species, independently of the host tree configuration. L. pulmonaria distribution was highly dependent on habitat quality for successful establishment, i.e., tree species identity, tree diameter, and several forest stand structure surrogates. For beech trees, tree diameter was the main factor influencing presence and cover of the lichen, although larger lichen-colonized trees were located close to focal trees, i.e., young trees. However, oak diameter was not an important factor, suggesting that bark roughness at all diameters favoured lichen establishment. Our results indicate that L. pulmonaria dispersal is not spatially restricted, but it is dependent on habitat quality. Furthermore, new spatial analysis tools suggested that L. pulmonaria cover exhibits a distinct pattern, although the spatial pattern of tree position and size was random.