Adaptation of Lichens to Extreme Conditions

  • Richard A. ArmstrongEmail author


Lichens exhibit the classic features of stress-tolerant organisms, viz. slow growth rates, considerable longevity, low demand for nutrients, and the presence of specific adaptations to survive in the most inhospitable environments on Earth. The ability of lichens to tolerate the extremes posed by deserts, polar regions, and chemically rich environments involves both morphological and physiological adaptation and changes in ecological behaviour so that species adapt to relatively protected niches within an extreme environment. This chapter discusses those aspects of the lichen symbiosis relevant to survival in extreme conditions and then describes the adaptation of lichens to (1) wet forests, (2) deserts, (3) the Arctic, (4) alpine regions, (5) Antarctica, (6) chemically rich environments, and (7) extraterrestrial environments such as outer space and Mars. It is evident that the lichen symbiosis is more tolerant to hostile conditions than its symbionts, morphological and physiological adaptations are intimately associated, and convergent evolution has resulted in similar changes in different environments.


Lichen Extreme environments Adaptation Arctic/alpine regions Antarctica Deserts Chemically rich environments Extraterrestrial environment 


ABC transporter

ATP-binding casette transporter


European BIOPAN Facility




Glutathione S-transferase


International Space Station


Net photosynthesis


Reactive oxygen species


Surface/volume ratio


Superoxide dismutase


Thermal Emission Imaging System




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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Vision SciencesAston UniversityBirminghamUK

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