If a Tree Falls in the Forest, Will Its Lichens Flourish or Die?

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2020


In 2016, a storm blew over an old growth sand post oak tree (Quercus margarettae) at O'Leno State Park in northern Florida. This event provided access to the entire tree without climbing it. Because the tree was suspended by its branches so it was parallel with the ground, we could easily observe and collect lichens at all former canopy heights. We surveyed the wind-blown tree's lichens before the species' composition changes had occurred. Several uncommon lichens were found on this oak. We rated relative abundance of each lichen species on the tree for three consecutive years. To our surprise, many of the lichens were still alive after one or more years, despite being in a lower canopy position and on a different aspect. However, most lichens changed in relative abundance or were reduced in abundance; one species, Parmeliella triptophylla, increased in relative abundance. Five species did not change, while 26 species decreased in abundance. Lichen response was dynamic in both abundance and thallus size. We found many old growth lichen indicators for Florida and this gave us an opportunity to study rarely encountered lichen species.