Terricolous lichens as indicators of nitrogen deposition: Evidence from national records

Stevens, Carly and Smart, S.M. and Henrys, P. and Maskell, L.C. and Crowe, A. and Simkin, J. and Preston, C.D. and Cheffings, C. and Whitfield, C. and Rowe, E. and Gowing, D.J.G. and Emmett, B.A. (2012) Terricolous lichens as indicators of nitrogen deposition: Evidence from national records. Ecological Indicators, 20. pp. 196-203.

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Large areas of Great Britain currently receive nitrogen (N) deposition at rates which exceed the thresholds above which there is risk of damage to sensitive components of the ecosystem (critical loads for nutrient nitrogen and critical levels for ammonia), and are predicted to continue to do so. Excess N can damage semi-natural ecosystems. Lichens are potentially sensitive to air quality because they directly utilise nutrients deposited from the atmosphere thus may be good indicators of air quality. We used data from the British Lichen Society (BLS) database, which records the presence of all lichen taxa growing in Britain at 10 km resolution. The probability of presence of a taxa at a given level of N deposition was analysed together with driver data for climate, change in sulphur deposition, land-use and N deposition using generalised additive models (GAMs). Many taxa showed negative responses to N deposition with reductions in the probability of presence as N deposition increased. In all of the habitats, there were a mix of terricolous taxa which showed negative or no significant relationship with N deposition. Most of the taxa with negative relationships with N deposition started to decline in prevalence at the lowest levels of deposition found in this study. Levels of deposition over which a negative response apparently occurs are lower than those at which critical loads have been set for some habitats. These findings suggest that some terricolouslichen taxa are sensitive to atmospheric N deposition and even low levels of nitrogen deposition could be damaging terricolouslichen communities making then potentially good indicators of N deposition.

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Journal Article
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Ecological Indicators
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12 Apr 2012 08:59
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 00:19