Since some of my blog posts have discussed moss gardening in relation to conservation and stewardship, Dr. Elphick recommended an article on lichen conservation. I checked it out and decided to share some of the interesting highlights. (For a review of lichen biology see my posts from October.)
Caruso, A., J. Rudolphi, and G. Thor. 2008. Lichen species diversity and substrate amounts in young planted boreal forests: A comparison between slash and stumps of Picea abies. Biological Conservation 141:47-55.
This study examines the lichens that grow on dead wood in managed forests. The dead wood consists of branches and tree tops (slash) as well as stumps. Forest managers are interested in using this wood for biofuel and this research study explores how this removal will impact the lichen communities.
Out of the 60 species of lichens that were found growing on the slash and stumps, 42 of these species were only found growing on these substrates in the forest. They were not found growing on any of the live trees. Additionally, the stumps had more unique lichen species than the slash. This is most likely due to the larger moisture holding capacity, higher surface area, and greater texture (nooks and crannies) of the stumps. Thus this dead wood represents a important growing surface for lichens and should be taken into account for lichen conservation.
Decaying wood is also a substrate for mosses on the forest floor. I think that it would be interesting to see if many species of mosses grow exclusively on decaying wood similar to lichens. This would lend support to the idea that dead wood should not be removed from the forest floor for biofuel, since it provides a critical substrate for forest organisms.