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Growth of reindeer lichens and effects of reindeer grazing on ground cover vegetation in a Scots pine forest and a subarctic heathland in Finnish Lapland

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Reindeer lichens are an important component of northern ecosystems. The aim of this study was to measure the growth rate of terricolous lichens as it is a key parameter involved in productivity of these ecosystems and an important part of lichen tolerance to reindeer grazing. Furthermore, the natural succession and the long-term effects of reindeer grazing on lichen community characteristics in two contrasting habitats were investigated as well as the interactions between lichen cover and mosses and vascular plants. Biomass and coverage measurements were conducted in a lichen woodland and in a subarctic heath with grazed and ungrazed areas in northern Finland. Measurements spanning over 13 yr of undisturbed development show that the growth rate of Cladina stellaris can be as high as >0.17 g g−1 produced annually, although in average growth rates were much lower. During the succession of ground vegetation, C. stellaris, C. rangiferina, C. mitis and Cetraria nivalis increased in biomass in fenced areas and were reduced most in biomass by reindeer in unprotected areas. Reindeer grazing and trampling seem to change the vegetation towards a type that is dominated by small dwarf shrubs, bare soil and minute-cup lichens (Cladonia spp.). Removing the lichen layer by reindeer may reduce natural regeneration of pine trees as implied by increasing numbers of pine seedlings with increasing lichen cover.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2003

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