Can epiphytic lichens of remnant Atlantic oakwood trees in a planted ancient woodland site survive early stages of woodland restoration?

Key message

Epiphytic lichens of remnant Atlantic oakwood trees, enclosed within a recently planted conifer matrix, show ability to survive early stages of woodland restoration (conifer removal).


Context Atlantic oakwood, ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW), supports important epiphytic lichens. Fragmented ASNW, historically in-filled with conifers, are now being restored to reflect ASNW tree and ground flora character. Concerns exist that sudden and total removal of the conifer matrix will be detrimental to the epiphyte diversity of remnant trees retained within the former plantation.
Aims Here, we ask whether an unintended consequence of habitat restoration is the loss of epiphyte populations on remnant trees.
Methods Dynamics of ground flora development were studied at one 50-ha site on the west coast of Scotland using indicator species occurrence and species traits. Change in cover of lichen species was determined and lichen vitality was assessed in two Lobaria species using chlorophyll fluorescence as a proxy. Assessments pre-, post- and nine years after conifer removal were made in plantation areas (containing remnant oak trees) and ASNW areas.
Results Re-vegetation of the ground flora was predominantly by ASNW vegetation. Species richness and occurrence of native woodland indicator species increased and the community showed stronger competitor traits. Lichen vitality was initially reduced but recovered. Tests showed change in the abundance of key lichen species and lichen community diversity was non-significant despite the loss of four lichen species on remnant trees.
Conclusion Ground flora dynamics indicate site recovery was underway within eight years of restoration activities and epiphytic lichens although variable in response were in this study largely unaffected, this restoration approach could be appropriate for other Atlantic oakwoods where lichen conservation is an objective.

ASNW; PAWS; Restoration; Lichen; Conservation; Species traits

Broome, A., Inchboard, L.L., Perks, M. et al. Can epiphytic lichens of remnant Atlantic oakwood trees in a planted ancient woodland site survive early stages of woodland restoration? Annals of Forest Science 78, 58 (2021).

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Data availability
The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to data being used in a follow-up manuscript but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Handling Editor
Laurent Bergès

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