Tree age and tree structure are important determinants for epiphytic lichen communities, affecting substrate stability, light availability, and propagule dispersal. However, little is known about the relative importance of these 2 factors on many species. This work aims to evaluate the importance of tree age and tree structure in explaining the within-stand frequency of the macrolichen Letharia vulpina. The study was carried out in 2 larch–stone pine forests in the Eastern Italian Alps. The frequency of Letharia was evaluated using a standard sampling method. To explain the within-stand frequency of Letharia, tree age and several variables related to tree structure were considered. Multiple ordinary least square regression was applied to clarify the influence of the set of variables. Several partial regressions were then computed to evaluate the relative importance of each significant predictor. The frequency of Letharia increases with increasing tree age, tree diameter, and first branch height. Tree age is the most important variable, accounting for one third of the total explained variation, although tree structure also has a significant effect on lichen frequency. Due to its dispersal limitations and old-tree dependence Letharia is proposed as a suitable indicator of forest continuity. The results may be of interest for conservation purposes, since the frequency of Letharia may be enhanced by protecting old trees.
Nomenclature: Nimis & Martellos, 2003.