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Water – a key factor for understanding how climate and forestry influence hair lichens

Research project A project for developing a functional understanding of lichen response to climate change and forestry.

Head of project

Per-Anders Esseen
Professor emeritus

Project overview

Project period:

Start date: 2007-01-01

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Ecology and Environmental Science

Research area


Project description

Hair lichens represent a major epiphyte component in boreal forests, where they are an important food source and habitat for many animals. Due to their high surface area to mass ratio they play a major role in the interception and retention of water and nutrients within forest canopies. Hair lichens have dramatically declined due to air pollution and forestry while their responses to climate change are poorly known.

We will develop a functional understanding of lichen response to climate change and forestry based on a water source model. This model predicts that lichen distributions are linked to availability of rain, humid air and dew across spatial and temporal scales. Using field and lab based experiments we will identify species-specific water uptake and storage traits that drive broad-scale distribution of hair lichens and develop mechanistic, process-based bioclimatic models. We will:

1) Quantify uptake of water from humid air, storage and retention of water.

2) Study how water uptake/storage traits drive growth (net carbon gain) and viability under various micro- and macroclimates.

3) Identify traits that lead to optimal performance in various forests in future warmer and wetter climates.

4) Identify factors causing observed large-scale dieback in the key-stone genus Bryoria.

We will develop effective methods for mitigating effects of forestry and climate change on lichens. Stakeholders are conservation authorities, reindeer herders, forest managers and researchers.
Project group

Per-Anders Esseen, Umeå universitet
Kristin Palmqvist, Umeå universitet
Yngvar Gauslaa, Norges miljø- og biovitenskapelige universitet
Christopher Ellis, Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh
Darwin Coxson, University of Northern British Columbia

Latest update: 2019-01-30