, Volume 140, Issue 2, pp 211–216 | Cite as

The lichens Xanthoria elegans and Cetraria islandica maintain a high protection against UV-B radiation in Arctic habitats

  • Line NybakkenEmail author
  • Knut Asbjørn Solhaug
  • Wolfgang Bilger
  • Yngvar Gauslaa


This study reports UV screening pigments in the upper cortices of two widespread lichens collected in three sun-exposed locations along a latitudinal gradient from the Arctic lowland to alpine sites of the Central European Alps. Populations from the Alps receive 3–5 times higher UV-B irradiance than their Arctic counterparts from Svalbard because of latitudinal and altitudinal gradients in UV-B irradiance. In Cetraria islandica, the screening capacity of melanin in the upper cortices was assessed by direct measurements of cortical transmittance (250–1,000 nm). A comparison of cortical transmittances in brown sun-exposed and pale shade-adapted forest C. islandica thalli showed that fungal melanins strongly absorb both UV-B and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). For Xanthoria elegans cortical UV-B absorbing pigments, mainly the orange parietin, were extracted and quantified. Field experiments with extracted, parietin-deficient X. elegans thalli cultivated under various filters showed that UV-B was essential for the induction of parietin synthesis. The parietin resynthesis in these parietin-deficient samples increased with decreasing latitude of their location in which they had been sampled, which may imply that the synthesis of pigments is habitat specific. However, no latitudinal gradient in cortical screening capacity was detected for any of the two species investigated in the field. This implies that Arctic populations maintain a high level of screening pigments in spite of low ambient UV-B, and that the studied lichen species presumably may tolerate an increase in UV-B radiation due to the predicted thinning of the ozone layer over polar areas


Cortical transmittance Latitudinal gradient Melanin Parietin Pigments 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Line Nybakken
    • 1
    Email author
  • Knut Asbjørn Solhaug
    • 1
  • Wolfgang Bilger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yngvar Gauslaa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Natural Resource ManagementAgricultural University of NorwayÅsNorway
  2. 2.Botanisches InstitutChristian-Albrechts Universität zu KielKielGermany

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