Inhibition of Primary Photosynthesis in Desiccating Antarctic Lichens Differing in Their Photobionts, Thallus Morphology, and Spectral Properties

Five macrolichens of different thallus morphology from Antarctica (King George Island) were used for this ecophysiological study. The effect of thallus desiccation on primary photosynthetic processes was examined. We investigated the lichens' responses to the relative water content (RWC) in their thalli during the transition from a wet (RWC of 100%) to a dry state (RWC of 0%). The slow Kautsky kinetics of chlorophyll fluorescence (ChlF) that was recorded during controlled dehydration (RWC decreased from 100 to 0%) and supplemented with a quenching analysis revealed a polyphasic species-specific response of variable fluorescence. The changes in ChlF at a steady state (Fs), potential and effective quantum yields of photosystem II (F-V/F-M, phi(PSII)), and nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) reflected a desiccation-induced inhibition of the photosynthetic processes. The dehydration-dependent fall in F-V/F-M and phi(PSII) was species-specific, starting at an RWC range of 22-32%. The critical RWC for phi(PSII) was below 5%. The changes indicated the involvement of protective mechanisms in the chloroplastic apparatus of lichen photobionts at RWCs of below 20%. In both the wet and dry states, the spectral reflectance curves (SRC) (wavelength 400-800 nm) and indices (NDVI, PRI) of the studied lichen species were measured. Black Himantormia lugubris showed no difference in the SRCs between wet and dry state. Other lichens showed a higher reflectance in the dry state compared to the wet state. The lichen morphology and anatomy data, together with the ChlF and spectral reflectance data, are discussed in relation to its potential for ecophysiological studies in Antarctic lichens.

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