Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Nitrogen tolerance in the lichen Xanthoria parietina: the sensitive side of a resistant species

Silvana Munzi A B C , Cristina Branquinho A , Cristina Cruz A and Stefano Loppi B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências, Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Campo Grande, Bloco C2, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal.

B Department of Environmental Science, University of Siena, via P. Mattioli 4, I-53100 Siena, Italy.

C Corresponding author. Email: ssmunzi@fc.ul.pt

Functional Plant Biology 40(3) 237-243 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP12127
Submitted: 24 April 2012  Accepted: 12 October 2012   Published: 7 November 2012

Abstract

To investigate the mechanisms of nitrogen (N) tolerance in lichens, we examined the physiological responses to increased N availability in different functional groups. Thalli of the nitrophytic Xanthoria parietina (L.) Th.Fr. previously grown both in an N-poor environment (~2 kg N ha–1 year–1) and in an N-rich environment (~52 kg N ha–1 year–1) were compared with the oligotrophic species Evernia prunastri (L.) Ach. and Usnea sp. Lichens were submitted to ammonium treatments. Maximum PSII efficiency, redistribution of the ions between the intra- and extracellular compartments and potassium and magnesium concentrations were the parameters used to check for the effects of N supply. The buffering capacity of the lichen extracts was also determined in untreated lichen thalli to check if different lichen behaviours were due to their ability to maintain the pH. The results showed a more similar response between X. parietina from the N-poor environment and the N-sensitive species than between X. parietina from the N-poor and N-rich environments, suggesting that X. parietina achieved N-tolerance after long-term exposure to N-rich environment. These results are important in understanding the effects of chronic ammonium pollution on one of the most sensitive components of the ecosystem, linking physiological response and ecological consequences.

Additional keywords: adaptation, ammonium, buffer capacity, cell membrane damage, cellular homeostasis, Fv/Fm.


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