By surveying and re-surveying 12 forest sites in southern Sweden for the epiphytic lichen Lobaria pulmonaria with a 9-year interval, and measuring tree-related habitat quality variables, we have investigated whether the local distribution of the lichen is limited by poor dispersal capacity or by habitat quality. Dispersal distances were measured indirectly as the distances between colonised trees and the nearest trees occupied by L. pulmonaria in both 1992 and 2001. To compare habitat quality between trees occupied by L. pulmonaria and neighbouring control trees, we recorded tree species and measured age and growth rate of trees, light conditions, bark structure and bryophyte cover. The estimated mean dispersal distance was 35 m, with a recorded maximum of 75 m. Occupied trees were larger and had a larger cover of bryophytes than unoccupied trees of similar size. The results indicate that dispersal capacity probably is the most important factor in limiting the local distribution of L. pulmonaria, but habitat-quality factors may be important on a smaller spatial scale.