Factors influencing epiphytic moss and lichen distribution within Killarney National Park

Published on Jan 1, 2016in Bioscience Horizons
Kris Sales5
Estimated H-index: 5
(UEA: University of East Anglia),
Laurie Kerr3
Estimated H-index: 3
(UEA: University of East Anglia),
Jessie Gardner4
Estimated H-index: 4
(Norwich University)
The niches of epiphytes are widely studied and have been shown to be complex involving interspecific competition, succession and predation. This study is unique in that it applies the niche concept to moss and lichen distributions within Killarney National Park, Kerry, Ireland. We studied 75 trees between three pristine ancient woodlands and measured a range of physical and biological factors to ascertain influences on epiphyte cover. The species of tree was found as the principal determinant in community structure as it bioengineers conditions such as light, temperature and humidity that the epiphytes are reliant upon. Furthermore, the bark character and trunk circumference were important. Zonation of the epiphytes was apparent with both aspect and height on the trunk. Typically, moss dominated over lichen within a niche that was relatively sheltered. Lichen tolerated drier and lighter niches often being further up the trunk on sun facing aspects. Ultimately, there was succession up the tree mediated through competition. This study highlights the complexity and interrelatedness between biotic and abiotic factors in a relatively unstudied geographical and biological area. Understanding agents behind a population's distribution enables manipulation for conservation or sustainable exploitation.
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