Questions: How do tree age, microhabitat characteristics and epiphytic competitors affect the occurrence of crustose lichens associated with old oaks? How do microhabitat characteristics and microclimate affect the cover of competitors (bryophytes and macrolichens)? How do microhabitat characteristics correlate with microclimatic variables?
Location: Southeast Sweden.
Methods: Eight crustose lichen species were surveyed on 165 Quercus robur trees, 17–478 years old, at three study sites. The occurrence patterns of these species were examined at two spatial scales: among trees and within trees. Occurrence patterns within trees were examined in 10 cm × 10 cm plots at all four cardinal aspects at different heights from 0.5 to 4.5 m above the ground.
Results: At the tree level, age-related factors were the most important predictors of species occurrence. All species were more frequent on trees > 100 years than on younger trees. At the plot level, the frequency of occurrence increased with increasing bark crevice depth. The frequencies of all study species decreased with increasing cover of bryophytes. Bryophytes were in turn more frequent in plots that were exposed to rainwater and showed a low evaporation rate. Patches most exposed to rainwater were directed upwards, and the lowest evaporation rates occurred on the northern side of the trunks.
Conclusions: For many crustose lichens the association with old oak trees seems at least partly to depend on their preference for the deep bark crevices that only occur on old trees. Trees represent epiphyte habitat patches that differ in size due to within-tree variability in habitat quality, such as bark crevice depth and microclimate. This study shows that variability at a finer scale, within habitat patches, contribute to explain species occurrence patterns at habitat patch level.
Nomenclature: Santesson et al. (2004).