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Exploring patterns of commonness and rarity in lichens: a case study from Italy (Southern Europe)

  • Pier Luigi NIMIS (a1), Stefano MARTELLOS (a1), Daniel SPITALE (a2) and Juri NASCIMBENE (a3)


This paper, based on data from the latest checklist of Italy, analyzes the distribution patterns of rare and common lichen species within biogeographically homogeneous versus heterogeneous areas of Italy, and the relationships with some main drivers of rarity and commonness. The following data were used: 1) commonness-rarity values of 2565 species in nine ecoregions; 2) frequency of 353 nationally rare and 387 nationally common species in 21 administrative regions. The following functional and ecological traits were considered: growth form, photobiont(s), type of reproduction, substrata, bioclimatic range, ecological indicator values for aridity and eutrophication, and poleophoby. Within each ecoregion, rare species by far outweigh common species but about one third of these are common in other ecoregions. At the level of regional floras, rarity is significantly associated with epiphytic substrata, non-trebouxioid photobionts and high air humidity, while commonness is associated with saxicolous substrata, trebouxioid photobionts and eutrophication. Rarity seems to mainly depend on two factors, bioclimate (many rare species are outside the limit of their bioclimatic optima) and reduced availability of suitable habitats (e.g. old-growth forests), while commonness is mainly related to disturbance (eutrophication, creation of drier habitats). Most of the nationally rare lichens belong to an oceanic-suboceanic element with tropical affinities or to a small set of continental species with their optima in the dry steppe biome, which suggests that many rare species can persist in microrefugia, that is sites with microclimates that support small populations of species beyond the boundaries of the climatic limits of their main distributions.



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