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- Ecology and diversity of the lichen symbiosis : following established patterns, or an exception to the rule?
- Scharnagl, Klara
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
Few phenomena of biodiversity have perplexed researchers as much as the latitudinal diversity gradient. Though many taxa have been shown to follow this pattern of high species richness in the tropics and lower species richness towards the poles, no consensus has yet been reached regarding the drivers of this global pattern. Symbiosis, a long term and physically intimate interaction between two organisms, is a prevalent biotic interaction across the tree of life, yet few studies of the...
Show moreFew phenomena of biodiversity have perplexed researchers as much as the latitudinal diversity gradient. Though many taxa have been shown to follow this pattern of high species richness in the tropics and lower species richness towards the poles, no consensus has yet been reached regarding the drivers of this global pattern. Symbiosis, a long term and physically intimate interaction between two organisms, is a prevalent biotic interaction across the tree of life, yet few studies of the latitudinal diversity gradient have looked at symbiotic organisms. One example of symbiosis is the lichen symbiosis, an association between a filamentous fungal partner and a photosynthetic partner of green algae or cyanobacteria. Little is known about the latitudinal diversity gradient of lichens, yet their terrestrial ubiquity and symbiotic nature could provide insight into the drivers of this global pattern. To assess whether lichenized fungi follow a latitudinal diversity gradient, I compiled a dataset from three repositories for digitized herbarium specimen data: the Consortium for North American Lichen Herbaria, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and the Institutos Nacionais de Ciencia e Tecnologia. The fully compiled and quality-controlled dataset contained over 900,000 datapoints representing over 8,000 species. The raw species richness data revealed a peak in richness north of the equator outside of the tropics, however, this pattern mirrored the number of collections per latitudinal band. To correct for sampling effort biases in the digitized herbarium data, I rarefied species richness. I further corrected the rarefied species richness for land area, given the wide range of land area per latitudinal band in the Americas. This rarefied and land-area-corrected species richness data supports a latitudinal diversity gradient of lichenized fungi in the Americas. In a comparison to lichen checklist data at the country or state level, I revealed that tropical regions are underrepresented in the digitized herbarium data.To test the influence of sampling effort bias on the patterns revealed by the digitized herbarium data, I designed a field sampling approach directly targeted at the question of whether epiphytic lichens follow a latitudinal diversity gradient. This approach can help remove bias present in digitized herbarium data because they result from the compilation of many studies, each of which had its own taxonomic, regional, or ecological focus. To do so, I sampled from nine lowland forest sites across a 70-degree span of latitude in the Americas. At each site, I randomly chose ten plots, and sampled from ten trees within each plot for a total of nine hundred trees sampled. At each tree, I randomly chose a cardinal direction and placed a 20x40cm grid on the tree, collecting all lichens that fell within that grid. Thus, each site had the same amount of area surveyed for epiphytic lichen diversity. Lichens were identified to species in the lab. Data from systematic field sampling corroborate the latitudinal diversity gradient of (epiphytic) lichens. In a mixed effects model including tree and climate data, I found that this pattern is largely explained by host tree (substrate) diversity.With increasing land use change and impacts from climate change across the globe, it is increasingly important for us to set a baseline of patterns of diversity at large scales, as I did in my first two chapters, to then assess how these impacts are affecting the diversity of symbiotic organisms at different scales. For my third chapter, I applied my knowledge of lichen diversity to assess the impacts of three tropical forest restoration treatments on epiphytic lichens. The natural regeneration treatment had a small cohort of lichen species likely specialized to the high light and dry environment. The plantation and nucleation treatments had a mix of light and shade tolerant species and experienced higher competition from epiphytic bryophytes. The overall highest diversity of epiphytic lichens was found in the nucleation treatment, supporting this as the combination of the most cost-effective strategy that restores the greatest amount of tropical biodiversity.