Lichens represent a symbiosis between photosynthetic green-algal and/or cyanobacterial partners and a heterotrophic fungal partner. Although lichens have successfully adapted for growth and survival in a wide range of environments, our understanding of their ecological role is often limited. Research at UNBC examines the contribution of lichens to ecosystem processes and the mechanisms they use to survive in extreme habitats. This work has been carried out across northern British Columbia and the Yukon. Recent studies include work on:
Temperate Rainforest Lichens – The wet coastal and inland mountain ranges in British Columbia support diverse canopy lichen communities. Our studies at UNBC have examined interactions between lichen community composition and forest canopy structure, including anthropogenic influences such as edge-effects and forest harvesting. This research has also examined factors which promote lichen biodiversity, for instance, considerations of site continuity within upper Fraser River watershed ancient cedar stands.
Lichens in Biological Soil Crusts – Lichens are a major component of biological soil crusts in grassland and alpine tundra ecosystems. Our research has examined the contribution of lichens to biological soil crusts, particularly the role of nitrogen-fixing cyanolichens.
Caribou forage lichens – Lichens represent a major seasonal forage source for both mountain and woodland caribou populations. Research at UNBC has quantified the abundance of forage lichens such as Alectoria sarmentosa and looked at factors influencing the retention of forage lichens. An important component of this research has been the examination of how alternative forest harvesting practices can be used to retain forage lichens in managed landscapes.
MacDonald, A., and D. Coxson. 2013. A comparison of Lobaria pulmonaria population structure between subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) and mountain alder (Alnus incana) host-tree species in British Columbia's inland temperate rainforest. Botany: 91: 535-544. http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1139/cjb-2013-0025
Gauslaa, Y., D.S. Coxson, and K.A. Solhaug. 2012. The paradox of higher light tolerance during dessication in rare old forest cyanolichens than in more widespread co-occurring chloro- and cephalolichens. New Phytologist. 195:812–822. http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04221.x
Doering, M., and D. Coxson. 2010. Riparian alder ecosystems as epiphytic lichen refugia in sub-boreal spruce forests of British Columbia. Botany 88:144–157. http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1139/B09-096
Radies, D.N., D.S. Coxson, C.J. Johnson, and K. Konwicki. 2009. Predicting canopy macrolichen diversity and abundance within old-growth inland temperate rainforests. Forest Ecology and Management 259: 86-97. http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2009.09.046