Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FIA Project Y051034

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Distributional ecology of alectorioid lichens in the ICH

Author(s): Goward, Trevor
Imprint: Vancouver, B.C. : University of British Columbia, 2005
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), Lichens, British Columbia, Mountain caribou
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program


Capillary fruticose lichens that grow on trees mostly in cool, humid forests can be referred to as hair lichens. Owing to their abundance and nearly year-round availability, hair lichens, especially Alectoria and Bryoria, provide critical winter forage for Mountain Caribou. Caribou spend most of each year in subalpine forests and above; but in many years, early winter snows bury their ground forage but do not yet elevate them to within reach of heavy hair lichen loadings; as a result, they must descend to lower elevation forests. Here we examine the distributional ecologies of low-elevation hair lichens in a 60-year-old conifer forest in southern inland British Columbia. We demonstrate individual habitat preferences for 12 hair lichen species, which overlap in such a way as to suggest two loose associations: one green, the other black. The green hair lichen association occurs mostly in humid forests, especially on Picea, Thuja and, to a lesser extent, Tsuga, while the black hair lichen association is more tied to drier forests, especially on Pinus and, to a lesser extent, Pseudotsuga. Alectoria sarmentosa is the most frequent species in the former community, while Bryoria fremontii and B. fuscescens dominate the latter, especially on Pinus. Ventilation is shown to be a key environmental factor in the ecology of hair lichens, with several potentially important implications for the management of Mountain Caribou in low-elevation, early-winter habitats.

For further information, please contact Trevor Goward, University of British Columbia (

Updated September 08, 2005 

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