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A unique 25-year lichen growth monitoring programme involving 2,795 individuals of the Rhizocarpon subgenus at 47 sites on 18 glacier forelands in the Jotunheimen–Jostedalsbreen regions of southern Norway is reported. The data are used to address fundamental questions relating to direct lichenometry: spatial and temporal variability in lichen growth rates, climatic effects on lichen growth rates, lichen growth models, and implications for lichenometric dating. Mean annual (diametral) growth rate ranged from 0.43 to 0.87 mm yr−1 between sites, which is attributed primarily to local habitat differences. Interannual variability in annual mean growth rate exceeded 1.0 mm yr−1 at some sites. Annual mean growth rates for all sites combined varied from 0.52 to 0.81 mm yr−1 and was positively correlated with annual mean temperature and winter mean temperature (both r = 0.64, p <0.005) but not with summer seasonal temperature: positive correlations with annual and winter precipitation were less strong and the correlation with summer precipitation was marginally significant (r = 0.41 p <0.10). Growth-rate models characterized by annual growth rates that remain approximately constant or increase with lichen size up to at least 120 mm tended to fit the data more closely than a parabolic model. This is tentatively attributed to a long ‘linear/mature’ phase in the growth cycle. Comparison with growth rates inferred from indirect lichenometry suggest that such high measured growth rates could not have been maintained over the last few centuries by the largest lichens used in southern Norway for lichenometric dating. Several hypotheses, such as the effects of competition and climate change, which might explain this paradox, are discussed.

Keywords: Norway; Rhizocarpon; direct lichenometry; environmental controls; growth curves; growth models; growth rate variability; lichen size; lichenometric dating

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0459.2010.00375.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, School of the Environment and Society, Swansea University, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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