Highlights: Both reindeer grazing and forestry affect the cover and biomass of reindeer lichens; Reindeer grazing has bigger impact than forestry; The lichen cover was about five-fold and the biomass about fifteen-fold in the ungrazed (fenced) sites than in the grazed ones; The decrease of not only the biomass, but also the cover of lichens, is alarming.
Reindeer husbandry and forestry are practiced in the same areas in northern Fennoscandia. Reindeer pastures have largely deteriorated. We aimed to quantify the separate and combined effects of reindeer grazing and forestry on the amount of ground lichens. To do this, we mapped and inventoried all larger enclosures (49) in Finnish Lapland where forest management practices were similar in both sides of the fence. The average time since fencing was 43 years. We recorded the cover and estimated dry biomass of ground lichens, as well as parameters describing forest stand characteristics. The effect of reindeer grazing on both the cover and estimated dry biomass of lichens was clear: in the ungrazed (fenced) sites, the lichen cover (35.8%) was on average 5.3-fold and the dry biomass (1929 kg ha–1) 14.8-fold compared with the corresponding estimates in the grazed sites (6.8% and 130 kg ha–1). The effect of forestry on lichens was smaller. In the grazed stands the cover and biomass of lichens were higher in the mature stands compared to the younger stand development classes, whereas in the ungrazed stands there were no significant differences between the development classes. Both reindeer grazing and forestry affect the cover and biomass of ground lichens. The influence of reindeer grazing is, however, much heavier than that of forestry. The decrease of not only the biomass, but also the lichen cover, is alarming. The decrease of lichen cover may hinder the recovery of reindeer pastures, which in the long run endangers the sustainability of reindeer husbandry.