The vertical gradient of the community structure of epiphytic lichens in forest canopies was studied in southern Estonian coniferous forests. All lichen species on 15 Norway spruces and 15 Scots pines were recorded; age of trees ≥100 years. Species were sampled in height ranges on entire trees from the bottom to the top. The number of lichen species on pine trunks decreased with height from the ground, whereas the number of species on branches increased. There was no significant vertical change in the number of lichen species on spruce trunks; number of species on spruce branches was highest in mid canopy. The mean number of lichen species on a tree was 41 in spruces and 34 in pines; the mean number of species on the first 2 m was 14 in spruces and 12 in pines. According to the results, about two thirds of a tree's lichen species remain unrecorded if only the first 2 m near the ground are surveyed. Many lichen species were found only higher than 2 m, including several common species (e.g. Buellia griseovirens, Lecanora pulicaris, and Melanohalea exasperatula), but also some locally rather rare (Fellhanera subtilis, Micarea nitschkeana, Rinodina efflorescens) or red-listed ones (Evernia mesomorpha, Usnea barbata, U. fulvoreagens, U. substerilis, U. wasmuthii) and one new species for Estonia, Lecanora farinaria. There were also some species, such as Chaenotheca stemonea, Cladonia cenotea and C. norvegica, that were restricted to the lowest 2 m. The results indicate that canopy lichens form a significant part of lichen diversity in coniferous forests, and could add valuable information when estimating forest lichen diversity for conservation and other purposes.
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