Disturbance and diversity: Lichen species richness decreases with increasing anthropogenic disturbance

Boggess L.M., McCain C.M., Manzitto-Tripp E.A., Pearson S.M. & Lendemer J.C.
Biological Conservation
293: 110598 [10 p.]
Anthropogenic disturbance is rapidly increasing through habitat degradation, development, and deforestation. Gaps remain in understanding the effects of this disturbance on diverse and ecologically important organisms such as lichens. In North America, studies have focused on epiphytic macrolichens and catastrophic disturbance, largely ignoring microlichens and less severe disturbances. The Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis predicts these moderate disturbances will lead to higher species richness. Here we examine the effects of anthropogenic disturbance in the form of land management on overall lichen richness, including microlichens, and on the species richness of eight lichen functional groups. The study draws on a comprehensive data set of 872 species, in 208 one-hectare plots throughout the Southern Appalachian Mountains, a global biodiversity hotspot in eastern North America. A habitat quality index based on an established forestry metric was used as a proxy for anthropogenic disturbance and was quantified using a 10-part score including categories such as percent native tree canopy cover and degree of fragmentation. Linear models were used to compare habitat quality scores to overall species richness and to species richness of functional groups. Rather than following the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis, all groups uniformly follow a negative linear relationship: as disturbance increases, species richness decreases. This pattern held even for widely variable functional groups such as morphotype. Effective conservation of lichen richness should prioritize the maintenance of existing older, less-disturbed stands within large, contiguously forested areas. Keywords: Biodiversity ; Intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH) ; Forest management ; Land-use change ; Lichen community ecology, Old-growth forest.
Wednesday, 24 April 2024 11:31