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Lichens are highly specialized symbioses between heterotrophic fungi and autotrophic green algae or cyanobacteria. Polar and alpine habitats are mostly dominated by lichens, which successfully outcompete vascular plants and bryophytes in terms of biodiversity and often also biomass. Previous results revealed that (sub)antarctic and arctic populations of Cetraria aculeata select different strains of the green algal photobiont Trebouxia jamesii s. lat.  than temperate populations. However, it is so far unknown, whether this is just a phlogeographic pattern or whether genetic differences between the photobionts are associated with differences in physiological traits (ecotypic differentiation). In this project (funded by the German Research Foundation) mycobionts and photobionts from antarctic, arctic and temperate populations will be genotyped, and photosynthetic parameters for these genotyped lichens and their isolated photobionts measured. In a common garden design temperate individuals will be transplanted to arctic populations and vice versa to measure changes in dry weight over three years. The ultimate goal is to investigate whether differential association with ecotypically differentiated photobionts allows widely distributed lichen fungi to inhabit climatically hostile polar regions. The results of our study will strongly influence our ability to predict the impact of global climate change on polar terrestrial ecosystems. 


Domaschke, S., Fernandez Mendoza, F., Garcia, M.A., Martín, M.P. & C. Printzen (2012) : Low genetic diversity in Antarctic populations of the lichen Cetraria aculeata and its photobiont. - Polar Research 31: 17353.

Domaschke, S., Vivas, M., Sancho, L.G. & C. Printzen (2013) : Ecophysiology and genetic structure of polar versus temperate populations of the lichen Cetraria aculeata. - Oecologia 173: 699-709.

Mežaka, A., Brumelis, G., Piterans, A. & C. Printzen (2012) : Distribution of Lepraria in relation to tree substratum and deciduous forest type (Lepraria in deciduous forests). - Annales Botanici Fennici 49: 162-170.

Pérez-Ortega, S., Fernández Mendoza, F., Raggio, J., Vivas, M., Ascaso, C., Sancho, L.G., Printzen, C. & A. de los Ríos (2012) : Extreme phenotypic variation in Cetraria aculeata (lichenized Ascomycota): Adaptation or incidental modification? - Annals of Botany 109: 1133-1148.

Printzen, C., Domaschke, S., Fernández-Mendoza, F. & S. Pérez-Ortega (2013) : Biogeography and ecology of Cetraria aculeata, a widely distributed lichen with a bipolar distribution. In: Kansri Boonpragob, Peter Crittenden, H.Thorsten Lumbsch (Eds) Lichens: from genome to ecosystems in a changing world. - MycoKeys 6 (Special Issue): 33-53.

Printzen, C., Dressler, S., Kanz, B., Michalak, I., Nässig, W.A., Zizka, G. (2011) : Die DNA-Bank von Senckenberg und BiK-F. Senckenberg – Natur, Forschung, Museum 141 (11/12), 322-331.

Ruprecht, U., Brunauer, G. & C. Printzen (2012) : Photobiont diversity and richness in lecideoid Antarctic lichens from an ecological point of view. - Lichenologist 44: 661-678.

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