Polar Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 395–405 | Cite as

Physiological life history strategies of photobionts of lichen species from Antarctic and moderate European habitats in response to stressful conditions

  • Nadine Determeyer-Wiedmann
  • Andres Sadowsky
  • Peter Convey
  • Sieglinde OttEmail author
Original Paper


The vegetation of many terrestrial habitats across Antarctica is dominated by poikilohydric symbiotic lichens. Terrestrial habitats generally are characterised by extended exposure to desiccation and high irradiation. Physiological adaptation mechanisms of the algal partner (photobiont) are key factors in the successful colonisation of lichens of locations under severe environmental conditions. This study focused on isolated photobionts of the genus Trebouxia, from the continental Antarctic lichens Buellia frigida, Pleopsidium chlorophanum, the maritime Antarctic lichen Umbilicaria antarctica, and the Swedish lichen Fulgensia bracteata from a moderate temperate ecosystem at sea level. The photosystems PS II and PS I and the ratio of linear to cyclic electron transport were studied to elucidate adaptation mechanisms in the physiology of the photobionts in response to desiccation and light stress. The photobionts of the Antarctic lichens demonstrated striking tolerance to the stress conditions studied. Although the photobionts of U. antarctica and P. chlorophanum were genetically identical based on non-coding internally transcribed spacer (ITS), their physiological responses were clearly different, possibly indicating ecotypic differentiation. The photobiont of F. bracteata showed clearly different responses to those of the Antarctic photobionts. The response differences of the photobionts studied point to fundamental differences in life history strategies.


Stress conditions Adaptation Photosystem II and I Electron transport Ratio LET to CET 



Adenosine triphosphate


Cyclic electron transport


Dark recovery phase measuring point 1


Dark recovery phase measuring point 2


Minimum chlorophyll fluorescence yield


Maximum chlorophyll fluorescence yield, dark adapted


Maximum chlorophyll fluorescence yield, light adapted


Maximum quantum yield of PS II


Linear electron transport


Non-photochemical quenching


Pulse-amplitude modulation


Maximal P700 change, dark adapted


Maximal P700 change, light adapted


Photosystem I


Photosystem II


Current P700 signal


Coefficient of photochemical quenching


Reactive oxygen species


Trebouxia organic medium


Photochemical quantum yield of PS I


Effective quantum yield of PS II


Non-photochemical quantum yield of PS I-acceptor side limitation


Non-photochemical quantum yield of PS I-donor side limitation


Quantum yield of non-regulated energy dissipation in PS II


Quantum yield of regulated energy dissipation in PS II



We thank Eva Posthoff for her invaluable help with the photobiont cultures. The authors are especially grateful to Ulrike Ruprecht for her invaluable help and support on the molecular identification of the photobionts. Particular thanks for her great effort. Thanks are also due to the organising committee of the XIIth SCAR Biology Symposium 2017, Leuven, Belgium. SO is grateful to the German Research Foundation (DFG) for financing the Research Project Ot 96/15–1 as part of the Antarctic Priority Program (SPP 1158). PC is supported by NERC core funding to the British Antarctic Survey’s ‘Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation’ Team. Special thanks are due to the Bundesanstalt für Geologie und Rohstoffe (Andreas Läufer, Detlef Damaske) as well as to the British Antarctic Survey for the opportunity to collect the lichen samples used in this study. Thanks are also due to the staff at Rothera Station and Gondwana Station for logistic support. The authors also thank the reviewers for their invaluable comments.


There were no sources of funding and potential conflicts.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

To ensure objectivity and transparency in research, we ensure that accepted principles of ethical and professional conduct have been followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BotanyHeinrich Heine UniversityDuesseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Cluster of Excellence in Plant Sciences (CEPLAS) and Institute of Plant BiochemistryHeinrich Heine UniversityDuesseldorfGermany
  3. 3.British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High CrossCambridgeUK

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