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Although epiphytic lichens are widely adopted as environmental indicators, they are not yet included among the target species listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive, to which the system of protected areas of the Natura 2000 network refers. In this work, we aim to test the effectiveness of this system, mainly designed for the conservation of other groups of species, in protecting lichen species richness. For this purpose, we considered a case study (Central Italy) with half of the territory included in protected areas. Statistical differences in species richness and lichen communities were tested between sites located in 16 Protected Areas (PA) and 11 Non-Protected Areas (NPA) using non-parametric tests, multi-response permutation procedures (MRPP), non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) and Indicator Species Analysis (ISA). Despite the broad overlap between epiphytic lichen communities of NPAs and PAs and a similar number of total and common species, PAs contain a significantly higher number of nationally rare and extremely rare species, including cyanolichens. These results are also confirmed by the indicator analysis. Although the Natura 2000 network does not explicitly address the conservation of lichens, the protected areas in our study can play a role in protecting the diversity of epiphytic lichens, especially nationally rare and endangered species. However, the future inclusion of red-listed epiphytic lichens among the target species of Annex II of the Habitats Directive would be welcome to better protect these organisms on a European level.
Currently, change in lichen community structure depends on a combination of several pollutants instead of just one. Consequently, alpha lichen diversity no longer represents an effective response variable for assessing trends in atmospheric pollutants over time. Here we investigated the value of the relationship between alpha diversity and different aspects of gamma diversity (similarity, replacement and differences in richness of species) together with that of beta diversity (calculated as the sum of replacement and difference in richness of species), for assessing complex variations in epiphytic lichen communities in response to a changing pollution scenario. We considered an area subjected to extreme variation in atmospheric pollution in recent decades and explored temporal and spatial aspects of lichen community succession over short-, intermediate- and long-term reference periods. We found that variation in lichen communities for long- and intermediate-term reference periods was strongly dependent on the alpha diversity of single trees at the beginning of the observation period. The occurrence of nitrophytic species, which responded to the decrease in SO2 concentrations, contribute to this trend. The effect of land use was observed only over long observation periods, with trees in urban areas showing less variation than those located in rural areas. In particular, the analysis of similarity, species replacement and differences in richness of tree pairs demonstrated that trends and patterns within lichen communities are neither always nor to the same extent associated with alpha diversity. Our results show that a thorough study of gamma diversity, including beta diversity and similarity, is required to detect changes in air quality in long-term biomonitoring surveys.
Seven Neofuscelia species have been identified from Italy. A key to the species is provided and the distinguishing morphological and chemical characters, distribution, ecology, substratum preference and interrelationships of each are discussed. Neofuscelia perrugata is new to Italy. N. pyrenaica is new to Greece and Cyprus. New data on the distribution and ecology of N. perrugata, N. delisei and N. luteonotata are presented and these are consistent with their taxonomic rank.
The influence of environmental variables on epiphytic lichens in Liguria (NW Italy) was examined using two complementary approaches. Firstly, the variability of lichen vegetation in relation to environmental variables was investigated. Secondly, the variability of Lichen Biodiversity (LB) counts, used in biomonitoring studies, was analysed in relation to bioclimatic areas. Geomorphology strongly affects lichen vegetation. The coastal mountain ridge and the Tyrrhenian-Po valley watershed limit the distribution range of three different communities: a Parmelion community with a high frequency of coastal suboceanic species, a Parmelion community rich in oak wood species and the Pannelietum acetabuli association, situated beyond the Po Valley watershed. Substantial differences in the distribution of lichen communities related to a climatic gradient (from humid Mediterranean to dry sub-Mediterranean regions) are not matched by corresponding statistically significant differences in LB counts. More accurate studies are necessary to define homogeneous bioclimatic areas, in which LB values can be compared for biomonitoring purposes.
Eleven Xanthoparmelia species have been identified from Italy. A key to the species is provided and the distinguishing morphological and chemical characters, distribution, ecology, substratum preference and interrelationships of each are discussed. Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia is reported for the first time from Europe; X. angustiphylla and X. plittii are new to Italy.
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