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Lichen colonization patterns show minor effects of dispersal distance at landscape scale

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The role of dispersal in controlling the distribution of species at landscape scale (102–104 m) is still a matter of dispute. Here, we use the early colonization pattern of 23 epiphytic lichen species in a former tree‐less heathland landscape (170 km2) to test three hypotheses on how a landscape is colonized: A) mainly by long‐distance dispersal (LDD), B) by rare LDD events followed by limited local dispersal, and C) mainly by limited dispersal, resulting in a colonization front. The study system consisted of a chronosequence of 94 habitat patches constituting 0.4% of the landscape area, with a minimum inter‐site distance of 0.2 km. We used generalized linear mixed models with Bayesian inference to test predictions from the hypotheses. When age of sites and habitat area were accounted for, additional effects of geographical position of sites (distance from old sites, distance‐dependent relative propagule pressure, and distance from border of study area) on the probability of colonization by lichen species were small. Furthermore, species richness of sites did not depend on geographical position, either. Our results support a colonization process mainly governed by LDD at landscape scale, and that local stepwise colonization was not important. We argue that passively dispersed species with numerous small propagules tend to exhibit patchy populations with extensive dispersal at the landscape scale, rather than behaving like classical metapopulations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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