Abstract

The ecosystems fragmentation is one of the anthropic phenomena with highest impact at global level and the edge effect causes that only the fragments interior conserve their original biotic and abiotic characteristics. Lichens are organisms especially susceptible to environmental variability, what could be useful for bio-indication of edge effect. In this work, we evaluated the edge effect in two fragments of Polylepis quadrijuga in the Páramo de la Rusia (Boyacá-Colombia) to determine if there is an edge effect on distribution of lichens associated to P. quadrijuga and their chlorophyll content. We used three transects of 70 m across the matrix-edge-interior gradient in each fragment. We chose nine phorophytes per transect to measure the environmental variables: photosynthetically active radiation, relative humidity and air temperature, and the biological variables: richness and cover per species. Besides, we employed the species that were present in all the three zones of the gradient to quantify the content of chlorophylls a and b, and determine if there are changes in the ratio of chlorophylls a/b that could suggest physiological plasticity as a response to the edge effect. Our results showed that fragment 2 had a higher edge exposition because of its high relation perimeter/area, allowing to an environmental homogenization and lose of biodiversity in relation with fragment 1. Overall, we found 55 differentially distributed species in relation with the fragments and the matrix-edge-interior gradient. The interior of fragment 1 was the most conserved zone, harboring a composition different in more than 40 % to the composition of any other zone. We classified the lichens according with their habits: gelatinous, fruticose, crusty or foliose, but we did not find any relationship between the habit distribution and the edge effect. Six species of wide distribution showed changes in the chlorophyll content along the matrix-edge-interior gradient, what is an evidence of physiological plasticity to edge effect. It was also possible to distinguish between species with preference to warmer environment and species with preference to more humid and sufficiently irradiated places. We concluded that some species of lichens could have an important potential as bio-indicators of fragmentation in the páramo.

Keywords: edge effect, lichens, P. quadrijuga, relative humidity, temperature, radiation, chlorophyll.