Pine-lichen woodlands in north-central British Columbia show a long period of successional development where reindeer lichens (Cladina spp.) dominate plant cover at the forest floor surface. However, in mid- to late-successional stands lichen cover is replaced in a mosiac of surface microsites by feather moss mats (largely Pleurozium schreberi), with moss mats often burying lichen mats that previously had occupied these microsites. We have compared moss and lichen dominated microsites at this stage of stand development, looking at the influence of canopy structural variables and development of forest floor plant communities on microsite expression. Microsites with high feather moss mat cover had greater canopy leaf area index values, compared to microsites where lichen cover predominated. Leaf area index values were highly correlated with stand level structural variables, including basal area, total volume, and biomass of the dominant canopy tree species Pinus contorta. Changes in stand architecture were further associated with the accumulation of litter and organic matter at the forest floor surface. These factors suggest that the manipulation of stand structure in managed forests, for instance through partial-cut harvesting, may delay successional changes and promote continued lichen growth in these forest types. This is an important consideration in the management of pine-stands in northern B.C., where lichen mats provide significant forage values for caribou populations.
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Vol. 104 • No. 4