Phylogenetic clustering found in lichen but not in plant communities in European heathlands

I. Geedicke*, M. Schultz, B. Rudolph, J. Oldeland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Species richness is a widespread measure to evaluate the effect of different management histories on plant communities and their biodiversity. However, analysing the phylogenetic structure of plant communities could provide new insights into the effects of different management methods on community assemblages and provide further guidance for conservation decisions. Heathlands require permanent management to ensure the existence of such a cultural landscape. While traditional management with grazing is time consuming, mechanical methods are often applied but their consequences on the phylogenetic community assemblages are still unclear. We sampled 60 vegetation plots in dry sandy heathlands (EU habitat type 2310) in northern Germany stratified by five different heathland management histories: fire, plaggen (turf cutting), mowing, deforestation and intensive grazing. Due to the distant relationship of vascular plants and lichens, we assembled two phylogenetic trees, one for vascular plants and one for lichens. We then calculated phylogenetic diversity (PD) and measures of phylogenetic community structure for vascular plant and lichen communities. Deforested areas supported significantly higher PD values for vascular plant communities. We found that PD was strongly correlated with species richness (SR) but the calculation of rarefied PD was uncorrelated to SR leading to a different ranking of management histories. We observed phylogenetic clustering in the lichen communities but not for vascular plants. Thus, management by mowing and intensive grazing promotes habitat filtering of lichens, while management histories that cause greater disturbance such as fire and plaggen do not seem to affect phylogenetic community structure. The set of management strategies fulfilled the goals of the managers in maintaining a healthy heathland community structure. However, management strategies that cause less disturbance can offer an additional range of habitat for other taxonomic groups such as lichen communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-224
Number of pages9
JournalCommunity Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Heathland
  • Historical land use
  • Lichen
  • Lüneburger Heide
  • MPD
  • Phylogenetic community structure
  • Phylogenetic diversity
  • Rarefaction
  • Species richness


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