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Investigation of the importance of rock chemistry for saxicolous lichen communities of the New Idria serpentinite mass, San Benito County, California, USA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2012

College of the Atlantic, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA. Email:
Department of Botany & Plant Sciences, 2117 Bachelor Hall, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.
Herbarium, Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Ryan E. O'DELL
United States Bureau of Land Management Hollister Field Office, 20 Hamilton Ct., Hollister, CA 95023, USA.
Nathaniel POPE
Department of Entomology, University of California Davis, One Shields Avenue, CA 95616, USA.
College of the Atlantic, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA. Email:
Department of Biological Sciences, One Washington Square, San José State University, San José, CA 95192, USA.


Although several lichen inventories exist for European ultramafic sites, only four surveys of serpentine lichens for North America have been published to date. Of those, only one has been conducted in California. We conducted a survey of saxicolous lichens from ultramafic rocks (including nephrite, partially serpentinized peridotite, and serpentinite) and non-ultramafic rocks (including silica-carbonate, shale, and sandstone) at the New Idria serpentinite mass, San Benito County, California. X-ray Fluorescence Analysis of the rocks from which the lichens were collected revealed significant elemental differences between the ultramafic and non-ultramafic rocks for 26 of the 32 major and trace elements analyzed. We identified a total of 119 species of lichenized and lichenicolous fungi; 60 species were restricted to ultramafic substrata, 19 to silica-carbonate, and 15 to shale and sandstone. Only 4 species were shared in common. A permutational multivariate analysis of variance (perMANOVA) test revealed significant differences in lichen assemblages between ultramafic and non-ultramafic rocks at the species level but not at the generic level, with species richness (alpha-diversity) significantly greater at the ultramafic sites. We suggest that, although differences in geochemistry clearly influence the lichen community composition, other factors, especially substratum age and the physical characteristics of the rock, are of equal, if not greater, importance. Of all the species collected, six, Buellia aethalea, B. ocellata, Caloplaca oblongula, Rhizocarpon saurinum, Thelocarpon laureri, and Trapelia obtegens, are reported new to California, along with an apparently previously undescribed Solenopsora sp. The rest of the species encountered are relatively frequent in the lichen flora of southern and central California, except Aspicilia praecrenata, a rare California endemic that we collected on both ultramafic and non-ultramafic rocks.

Research Article
Copyright © British Lichen Society 2012

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