Microclimate differences above ground-layer vegetation in lichen-dominated pine forests of north-central British Columbia

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Publication date: 15 February 2018
Source:Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 249

Author(s): Sean R. Haughian, Philip J. Burton

Lodgepole pine forests of north-central British Columbia have patchy ground-layer vegetation, typically dominated by either fruticose lichens, feathermosses, or ericaceous vascular plants; this patchy structure has been shown to correspond with environmental variables that likely moderate the ground-layer microclimate. To investigate the potential role of microclimate on patterns of dominance of ground-layer functional groups, we recorded temperature and relative humidity above the ground-layer vegetation during 25 summer days over patches dominated by mat-forming lichens, feathermosses, or vascular plants. Data were summarized for raw microclimate attributes and daily water potential of the air, and in terms of modelled equilibrium water content of moss or lichen thalli. Analysis of variance revealed significant differences in the water potential of air above the three patch types under sunny conditions, but not under overcast conditions. Differences in vegetation cover were only associated with differences in atmospheric moisture when using data from sunny periods during the daytime. These data confirm that lichens occupy microclimatic niches that are distinctly drier than those of feathermosses or vascular plants, and corroborate the suggested mechanism by which canopy or soil properties influence these types of ground-layer vegetation.


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