Canadian Forest Service Publications

Macrolichen diversity as an indicator of stand age and ecosystem resilience along a precipitation gradient in humid forests of inland British Columbia, Canada. 2016. Arsenault, A.; Goward, T. Ecological Indicators 69: 730-738.

Year: 2016

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36890

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.04.015

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


The distributional ecology of 87 macrolichens is reported from 14 unmanaged mid-seral and old forest stands along a precipitation gradient in south-central British Columbia. We used a combination of univariate and multivariate statistics to investigate the role of forest structure and stand age in the distribution of epiphytic macrolichens in interior cedar–hemlock forests. Old forests support a higher number of species; although mean species richness is not significantly different between the two age classes. Terricolous and epixylic community structure is correlated with stand age and log characteristics, but the epiphtytic community is not. Epiphytic community structure is strongly associated with precipitation in the old stands, but not in the mid-seral stands. Old forests at the wetter end of the precipitation gradient contained several old-growth associated species, all of which are hygrophytic. Most epiphytic macrolichens associated with old forests are not dependent on specific structural attributes. However, western red cedar (Thuja plicata Donn ex D. Don) harbors the greatest number of arboreal macrolichen species by far in these unmanaged stands and should, therefore, be considered a key indicator in managed forests. Our study suggests that most macrolichen species found in old forests can also occur in 70- to165-year-old forests dating from stand-replacing fires. Old forests, however, clearly provide important habitat for oceanic epiphytes at the edge of their ecological range in the interior of British Columbia. Our findings illustrate that the macrolichen flora in wet toe-slope stands in humid inland British Columbia has a high level of resilience following disturbance under natural succession conditions. It also underlines the point that some species, like Lobaria pulmonaria, are good indicators of old-growth forests in certain regions but not in others, suggesting a careful use of the term old-growth dependence.

Plain Language Summary

We examine macrolichen diversity as an indicator of stand age and resilience. Old forests harbor more species and include some species unique to old growth. The number of macrolichen species is not significantly correlated with stand age. Old forests provide key habitat for oceanic epiphytes at the edge of their range. The reliability of “old-growth dependent” macrolichens varies geographically.