Polar Biology

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 409–417 | Cite as

Spatial trends in usnic acid concentrations of the lichen Flavocetraria nivalis along local climatic gradients in the Arctic (Kongsfjorden, Svalbard)

  • J. W. BjerkeEmail author
  • D. Joly
  • L. Nilsen
  • T. Brossard
Original Paper


The dibenzofuran usnic acid is an important secondary lichen metabolite, having many postulated biological roles, but evidence from field surveys is scanty. Trends in usnic acid concentrations and lobe width in the arctic lichen Flavocetraria nivalis were analysed along local longitudinal and altitudinal gradients in the Kongsfjorden area, northwestern Spitsbergen. Temperature was measured along the same gradients during 1 year. Other environmental variables were also estimated. The model that best explains the variability in usnic-acid levels includes the parameters effective temperature sum, frost sum and temperature range. Temperature range indicates a relationship between high usnic acid levels and humidity, whereas the two first parameters indicate a relationship with low temperatures, which could be direct or indirect. Much of the variability in usnic acid levels and lobe width could not be explained by the selected models. Thus, the secondary metabolism and lobe growth in this lichen is a complex matter, involving numerous environmental and possibly also intrinsic factors.


Usnic Acid Lobe Width Heat Load Index Lichen Metabolite Secondary Lichen Metabolite 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The first author acknowledges financial support from Kong Haakon den 7des utdannelsesfond for norsk ungdom, from Polarfondet administered by The Committee for the conservation of the polar ship “Fram” at the Fram Museum, and from the Roald Amundsen Centre for Arctic Research at the University of Tromsø. We warmly thank our good colleague and friend Arve Elvebakk, University of Tromsø, for useful suggestions and information before field surveys were undertaken, and for comments on the manuscript, Siw Killengreen, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, for advice on model selection procedures, and Silke Werth, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, for discussions on multiple regression analyses. The Governor of Svalbard is gratefully acknowledged for permission to collect samples in the Kongsfjorden area, and referees for suggesting topics that subsequently were included in the discussion.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. W. Bjerke
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. Joly
    • 2
  • L. Nilsen
    • 1
  • T. Brossard
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Laboratoire ThéMACNRS & Université de Franche-ComtéBesançonFrance

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