Contrasting environmental drivers determine biodiversity patterns in epiphytic lichen communities along a European gradient
Assessing the ecological impacts of environmental change on biological communities requires knowledge of the factors driving the spatial patterns of the three diversity facets along extensive environmental gradients. We quantified the taxonomic (TD), functional (FD), and phylogenetic diversity (PD) of lichen epiphytic communities in 23 beech forests along Europe to examine their response to environmental variation (climate, habitat quality, spatial predictors) at a continental geographic scale. We selected six traits related to the climatic conditions in forest ecosystems, the water-use strategy and the nutrient uptake, and we built a phylogenetic tree based on four molecular markers. FD and climate determined TD and PD, with spatial variables also affecting PD. The three diversity facets were primarily shaped by distinct critical predictors, with the temperature diurnal range affecting FD and PD, and precipitation of the wettest month determining TD. Our results emphasize the value of FD for explaining part of TD and PD variation in lichen communities at a broad geographic scale, while highlighting that these diversity facets provide complementary information about the communities' response under changing environmental conditions. Furthermore, traits such as growth form, photobiont type, and reproductive strategy mediated the response of lichen communities to abiotic factors emerging as useful indicators of macroclimatic variations.
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