[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here we report details of the European research initiative “Soil Crust International” (SCIN) focusing on the biodiversity of biological soil crusts (BSC, composed of bacteria, algae, lichens, and bryophytes) and on functional aspects in their specific environment. Known as the so-called “colored soil lichen community” (Bunte Erdflechtengesellschaft), these BSCs occur all over Europe, extending into subtropical and arid regions. Our goal is to study the uniqueness of these BSCs on the regional scale and investigate how this community can cope with large macroclimatic differences. One of the major aims of this project is to develop biodiversity conservation and sustainable management strategies for European BSCs. To achieve this, we established a latitudinal transect from the Great Alvar of Öland, Sweden in the north over Gössenheim, Central Germany and Hochtor in the Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria down to the badlands of Tabernas, Spain in the south. The transect stretches over 20° latitude and 2,300 m in altitude, including natural (Hochtor, Tabernas) and semi-natural sites that require maintenance such as by grazing activities (Öland, Gössenheim). At all four sites BSC coverage exceeded 30 % of the referring landscape, with the alpine site (Hochtor) reaching the highest cyanobacterial cover and the two semi-natural sites (Öland, Gössenheim) the highest bryophyte cover. Although BSCs of the four European sites share a common set of bacteria, algae (including cyanobacteria) lichens and bryophytes, first results indicate not only climate specific additions of species, but also genetic/phenotypic uniqueness of species between the four sites. While macroclimatic conditions are rather different, microclimatic conditions and partly soil properties seem fairly homogeneous between the four sites, with the exception of water availability. Continuous activity monitoring of photosystem II revealed the BSCs of the Spanish site as the least active in terms of photosynthetic active periods.
Biodiversity and Conservation 03/2014; · 2.26 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antarctica, with its almost pristine conditions and relatively simple vegetation, offers excellent opportunities to investigate the influence of environmental factors on species performance, such information being crucial if the effects of possible climate change are to be understood. Antarctic vegetation is mainly cryptogamic. Cryptogams are poikilohydric and are only metabolically and photosynthetically active when hydrated. Activity patterns of the main life forms present, bryophytes (10 species, ecto- and endohydric), lichens (5 species) and phanerogams (2 species), were monitored for 21 days using chlorophyll a fluorescence as an indicator of metabolic activity and, therefore, of water regime at a mesic (hydration by meltwater) and a xeric (hydration by precipitation) site on Léonie Island/West Antarctic Peninsula (67°36'S). Length of activity depended mainly on site and form of hydration. Plants at the mesic site that were hydrated by meltwater were active for long periods, up to 100 % of the measurement period, whilst activity was much shorter at the xeric site where hydration was entirely by precipitation. There were also differences due to life form, with phanerogams and mesic bryophytes being most active and lichens generally much less so. The length of the active period for lichens was longer than in continental Antarctica but shorter than in the more northern Antarctic Peninsula. Light intensity when hydrated was positively related to the length of the active period. High activity species were strongly coupled to the incident light whilst low activity species were active under lower light levels and essentially uncoupled from incident light. Temperatures were little different between sites and also almost identical to temperatures, when active, for lichens in continental and peninsular Antarctica. Gradients in vegetation cover and growth rates across Antarctica are, therefore, not likely to be due to differences in temperature but more likely to the length of the hydrated (active) period. The strong effect on activity of the mode of hydration and the life form, plus the uncoupling from incident light for less active species, all make modelling of vegetation change with climate a more difficult exercise.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The net photosynthetic rate (NP), chlorophyll fluorescence, carotenoid content and chlorophyll content of the cosmopolitan moss Bryum argenteum were measured in the field at Botany Bay, southern Victoria Land, continental Antarctica (77°S). Comparisons were made between sun- and shade-adapted forms, and changes were followed as the moss emerged from under the snow and during exposure of shade and sun forms to ambient light. Shade forms had lower light compensation and saturation values for NP but little difference in maximal NP rates. Shade forms exposed to ambient light changed rapidly (within five days) towards the performance of the sun forms. Surprisingly, this change was not by acclimation of shoots but by the production of new shoots. Chlorophyll and carotenoid levels measured on a molar chlorophyll basis showed no difference between sun and shade forms and also little change during emergence. The constant molar relationship between carotenoids and chlorophyll plus the high levels of the xanthophyll cycle pigments suggest that protection of the chlorophyll antenna was constitutive. This is an adaptation to the very high light levels that occur when the plants are active in continental Antarctica and contrasts to the situation in more temperate areas where high light is normally avoided by desiccation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is growing interest in what controls the present distribution of terrestrial vegetation in Antarctica because of the
potential use of biodiversity as an indicator or predictor of the effects of climate change. Recent advances in knowledge
of distribution and ecophysiological performance of terrestrial vegetation means that an initial analysis of the potential
influence of temperature is now possible. Regressions of species numbers of lichens, mosses and hepatics on latitude and mean
annual temperature (standard macroclimatic data) were carried out, and the terrestrial vegetation in Antarctica could be divided
into two zones. The microenvironmental zone lies south of around 72°S, and biodiversity (richness and location) is uncoupled
from the macroenvironment and is, instead, determined by the occasional coincidences of warmth, water, light and shelter.
The macroenvironmental zone lies north of about 72°S, and biodiversity (richness, cover and growth) is strongly positively
linked to mean annual temperature; species numbers increase at about 9–10% per K (24.0, 9.3 and 1.8 species for lichens, mosses
and hepatics, respectively) probably due to improved water availability through increased precipitation and longer active
period (monthly degree-days also reach zero at about 72°S) allowing greater productivity, completion of metabolic processes
and a switch from survival to growth strategies. Cyanobacterial lichens appear to be a special case and may be expanding after
being forced into northerly refugia. Warming will cause a southward movement of the boundary between the two zones but distribution
in the microenvironmental zone will remain determined by local coincidences of environment and resources.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Lichens make up a major component of Antarctic vegetation; they are also poikilohydric and are metabolically active only when hydrated. Logistic constraints have meant that we have little idea of the length, timing or environmental conditions of activity periods of lichens. We present the results of a three-year monitoring of the activity of the lichen Umbilicaria aprina at Botany Bay (77° S latitude) in the Ross Sea region, continental Antarctica. Chlorophyll fluorescence parameters that allowed hydrated metabolic activity to be detected were recorded with a special fluorometer at 2- or 3-h intervals. Air and thallus temperatures and incident PPFD (photosynthetic photon flux density, lmol photon m-2 s-1) were also recorded at hourly intervals. Activity was extremely variable between months and years and, overall, lichen was active for 7% of the 28-month period. Spring snow cover often delayed the onset of activity. Whereas the period immediately after snow melt was often very productive, the later months, January to March, often showed low or no activity. Mean thallus temperature when active was just above zero degrees and much higher than the annual mean air temperature of -15 to -19° C. Because major snow melts occurred when incident radiation was high, the lichen was also subjected to very high PPFD when active, often more than 2,500 lmol photon m⁻² s⁻¹. The major environmental stress appeared to be high light rather than low temperatures, and the variability of early season snow fall means that prediction of activity will be very difficult.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There are marked declines in precipitation, mean temperatures and the number of lichen species with increasing latitude in Antarctica. However, it is not known which factors are the predominant controllers of biodiversity changes. Results are presented from over two years of almost continuous monitoring of both microclimate and activity in lichens at Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, 62°S, and Botany Bay, Ross Sea region, 77°S. Lichen activity was evident over a much longer period at Livingston Island, (3694 versus 897 hours) and could occur in any month whereas it was almost completely confined to the period November–February at Botany Bay. Mean air temperatures were much lower at Botany Bay (-18° compared to -1.5°C at Livingston Island), but the temperatures at which the lichens were active were almost identical at around 2°C at both sites. When the lichens were active incident light at Botany Bay was very much higher. The differences are related to the availability of meltwater which only occurs at times of high light and warm temperatures at Botany Bay. Temperature as a direct effect does not seem to explain the differences in biodiversity between the sites, but an indirect effect through active hours is much more probable. In addition there are negative effects of stresses such as high light and extreme winter cold at Botany Bay.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Botany Bay is one of the richest sites for lichen and bryophyte biodiversity in continental Antarctica. A total of 29 lichen, nine moss and one liverwort species have been identified. The most extensive vegetation occurs on a sheltered raised beach terrace. Vegetation associations are described and compared to other continental Antarctic localities that also possess a rich vegetation cover. Ordination analysis clearly indicates the importance of the type of water supply, its regularity, the substrate type, and particularly in Botany Bay, the influence of nutrients derived from the local bird population in governing plant distribution and associations. A vegetation map has been produced and can be used as a baseline to assess vegetation changes over time.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In hot and cold deserts lichens are part of important plant communities and they contribute substantially to the primary production. As arido-passive plants their physio-logical activity is limited to the moist period. Lichens are known for their extreme tolerance of high tempertures and subzero temperatures in the Antartic. The King George Islands and South Shetland Islands belong to the cold-Antartic zones and is a semi-arid cold desert. In the ice-free areas of the islands of the martime Antartic and of the continental Antartica lichens are the major compotent of the vegetation. One of the species with a wide distrubution is Usnea aurantiaco-atra and occurs from the islands of the Antartic peninsula to South America. On the Antartic islands Usnea aurantiaco-atra inhabite a wide range of habitats from the beach up to the mountains. The intra-specific variants of photosynthesis and dark respiration were investigated from populations from the South Shetland Islands. Temperature and light dependent response of net photosynthesis and dark respiration were determined under laboratory conditions by tmeans of a minicuvette-system (Fig. 1). The results will be discussed in relation to microclimatic habitat conditions and population genetics.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The activation of metabolism after the winter period was investigated in several mosses and lichens in continental Antarctica. Thalli that were still in their over-wintering inactive state in early spring were sprayed artificially and the time-dependent activation of photosystem II (PSII), carbon fixation and respiration was determined using gas exchange and chlorophyll a fluorescence techniques. The investigated lichens recovered PSII activity almost completely within the first few minutes and gross photosynthesis was fully reactivated within a few hours. In contrast, photosynthesis took much longer to recover in mosses, which could indicate a general difference between the green-algal symbionts in lichens and moss chloroplasts. Only small and quickly reversible increased rates of respiration were observed for the foliose lichen Umbilicaria aprina from a more xeric habitat. In contrast, species occurring near persistent meltwater, such as the moss Bryum subrotundifolium and the lichen Physcia caesia, had highly increased respiration rates that were maintained for several days after activation. Calculation of the carbon balances indicated that the activation pattern strongly dictated the length of time before a carbon gain was achieved. It appears that the differences in recovery reflect the water relations of the main growth period in summer.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 1. In dense populations of the saxicolous lichen Lasallia pustulata the margins of adjacent thalli overlap each other in intraspecific competition for space and light.2.In situ non-destructive monitoring of hydration-dependent potential photosynthetic activity by modulated fluorescence systems in different parts of the thallus shows that the activity is structured by a centre-to-margin gradient, with the centre of the thallus remaining active for substantially longer periods than the margins when the thalli dry up after being activated by wetting. The pattern reflects the water status of different parts of the thallus; the margins which are thin and exposed dry up first.3. The activity pattern within individual lichen thalli suggests that marginal overlapping between neighbours may have a less detrimental effect on the shadowed individuals than expected from a pure consideration of the amount of area shadowed. Because the centre of the lichen thallus is active for longer periods, shadowing of this region may possibly be more harmful per area unit than an overlap at the less active margins.4. Larger thalli are active for substantially longer periods than small ones. Even the margins of larger thalli tend to be active for a longer period than the centre of small thalli.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The cyanobionts of lichens and free-living Nostoc strains from Livingston Island (maritime Antarctica) were examined to determine both the cyanobiont specificity of lichens and the spatial distribution of Nostoc strains under extreme environmental conditions. We collected five different lichen species with cyanobacteria as primary or secondary photobiont (Massalongia carnosa, Leptogium puberulum, Psoroma cinnamomeum, Placopsis parellina and Placopsis contortuplicata) and free-living cyanobacteria from different sample sites and analysed them using the tRNALeu (UAA) intron as a genetic marker to identify the cyanobacterial strains. Our results showed that the same Nostoc strain was shared by all five lichen species and that an additional strain was present in two of the lichens. Both Nostoc strains associated with lichen fungi also occurred free-living in their surrounding. Bi- and tri-partite lichens were not different in their cyanobiont selectivity. Contrary to studies on different lichen species in temperate regions, the Antarctic lichen species here did not use species-specific cyanobionts; this could be because of a selection pressure in this extreme environment. Limiting factors under these ecological conditions favor more versatile mycobionts. This results in selection against photobiont specificity, a selection pressure that may be more important for lichen distribution than the effect of cold temperatures on metabolism.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The activity pattern of the moss Hennediella heimii (Hedw.) Zand. was monitored over a period of 18days during the austral summer season 2000/2001 at the Canada Flush in Taylor Valley, continental Antarctica. Provided with melt water from the massive Canada Glacier, the moss showed a constant potential photosynthetic activity during the entire measurement period. Permanently hydrated, the moss faced high light levels at surprisingly low moss temperatures, which is commonly supposed a deleterious situation for plants. The electron transport rate response of the moss to photosynthetic photon flux densities was linear at all temperatures and did not show a sign of saturation or photoinhibition. H. heimii seems to be well adapted to its environment and tolerates the ambient conditions without apparent harm. This might be due to the fact that mosses can acclimatise to high light conditions by building up highly effective non-photochemical quenching systems.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Photosynthetic activity, detected as chlorophyll a fluorescence, was measured for lichens under undisturbed snow in continental Antarctica using fibre optics. The fibre optics had been buried by winter snowfall after being put in place the previous year under snow-free conditions. The fibre optics were fixed in place using specially designed holding devices so that the fibre ends were in close proximity to selected lichens. Several temperature and PPFD (photosynthetic photon flux density) sensors were also installed in or close to the lichens. By attaching a chlorophyll a fluorometer to the previously placed fibre optics it proved possible to measure in vivo potential photosynthetic activity of continental Antarctic lichens under undisturbed snow. The snow cover proved to be a very good insulator for the mosses and lichens but, in contrast to the situation reported for the maritime Antarctic, it retained the severe cold of the winter and prevented early warming. Therefore, the lichens and mosses under snow were kept inactive at subzero temperatures for a prolonged time, even though the external ambient air temperatures would have allowed metabolic activity. The results suggest that the major activity period of the lichens was at the time of final disappearance of the snow and lasted about 10-14 days. The activation of lichens under snow by high air humidity appeared to be very variable and species specific. Xanthoria mawsonii was activated at temperatures below -10 degrees C through absorption of water from high air humidity. Physcia dubia showed some activation at temperatures around -5 degrees C but only became fully activated at thallus temperatures of 0 degrees C through liquid water. Candelariella flava stayed inactive until thallus temperatures close to zero indicated that liquid water had become available. Although the snow cover represented the major water supply for the lichens, lichens only became active for a brief time at or close to the time the snow disappeared. The snow did not provide a protected environment, as reported for alpine habitats, but appeared to limit lichen activity. This provides at least one explanation for the observed negative effect of extended snow cover on lichen growth.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Photosynthetic activity of the moss Sanionia uncinata (Hedw.) Loeske was investigated on Lonie Island (6735'S, 6820'W, Antarctic Peninsula) in response to short-term changes of UV-B radiation. The UV-environment of natural mat formations dominated by S. uncinata was altered using filter screens. Two filter experiments were conducted in the Antarctic summers 1998 and 1999. A third filter experiment was conducted during springtime ozone depletion in October 1998. Photosynthetic activity of S. uncinata was mainly determined by photosynthetically active photon flux density (PPFD). Light response of relative electron transport rate through photosystem II (rel ETR=jF/Fm'2PPFD) remained unaffected by ambient summer levels of UV-B radiation. The same was found for net photosynthesis and dark respiration. In October 1998, S. uncinata was mainly metabolically inactive due to low temperatures. No significant levels of DNA-damage measured as cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) were induced by ambient summer levels of UV-B. Artificially enhanced UV-B radiation supplying a Setlow-DNA-dose of 8.7 kJ mф dayу UV-B led to formation of 7ǅ CPD (106 nucleotides)-1. It is concluded that current ambient summer levels of UV-B radiation do not affect photosynthetic activity in S. uncinata.