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Effect of disturbances on the genetic diversity of an old-forest associated lichen


Silke Werth, Current address: UCLA, Warren Hall 23/118, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Box 951786, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1786, USA. Fax: 001-310-7941431, E-mail:


Lichens associated with old forest are commonly assumed to be negatively affected by tree logging or natural disturbances. However, in this study performed in a spruce-dominated sylvopastoral landscape in the Swiss Jura Mountains, we found that genetic diversity of the epiphytic old-forest lichen Lobaria pulmonaria depends on the type of disturbance. We collected 923 thalli from 41 sampling plots of 1 ha corresponding to the categories stand-replacing disturbance (burnt), intensive logging (logged) and uneven-aged forestry (uneven-aged), and analysed the thalli at six mycobiont-specific microsatellite loci. We found evidence for multiple independent immigrations into demes located in burnt and logged areas. Using spatial autocorrelation methods, the spatial scale of the genetic structure caused by the clonal and recombinant component of genetic variation was determined. Spatial autocorrelation of genotype diversity was strong at short distances up to 50 m in logged demes, up to 100 m in uneven-aged demes, with the strongest autocorrelation up to 150 m for burnt demes. The spatial autocorrelation was predominantly attributed to clonal dispersal of vegetative propagules. After accounting for the clonal component, we did not find significant spatial autocorrelation in gene diversity. This pattern may indicate low dispersal ranges of clonal propagules, but random dispersal of sexual ascospores. Genetic diversity was highest in logged demes, and lowest in burnt demes. Our results suggest that genetic diversity of epiphytic lichen demes may not necessarily be impacted by stand-level disturbances for extended time periods.