Intra-specific variation in lichen secondary compounds across environmental gradients on Signy Island, maritime Antarctic
Lichens produce various carbon-based secondary compounds (CBSCs) in response to abiotic conditions and herbivory. Although lichen CBSCs have received considerable attention with regard to responses to UV-B exposure, very little is known about intra-specific variation across environmental gradients and their role in protection against herbivory in the Antarctic. Here we report on the variation in CBSCs of two widely distributed and common Antarctic lichens, Usnea antarctica and Umbilicaria antarctica, between sites with different solar exposure (NW–SE) and along natural nitrogen (N) gradients which are associated with changing lichen-invertebrate associations on Signy Island (South Orkney Islands, maritime Antarctic). Fumarprotocetraric and usnic acid concentrations in Usnea showed no relationships with solar exposure, lichen-N or associated invertebrate abundance. However, fumarprotocetraric acid concentration was 13 times higher at inland sites compared to coastal sites along the N-gradients. Gyrophoric acid concentration in Umbilicaria was 33% lower in sun-facing (northerly exposed) habitats compared to more shaded (south-facing) rocks and declined with elevation. Gyrophoric acid concentration was positively correlated with the abundance and species richness of associated microarthropods, similar to the patterns found with lichen N. This initial investigation indicates that there can be large intraspecific variation in lichen CBSC concentrations across relative short distances (< 500 m) on Signy Island and raises further questions regarding current understanding of the role of CBSCs in Antarctic lichens in relation to biotic and abiotic pressures.
Authors: Bokhorst, Stef, Asplund, Johan, Convey, Peter ORCID record for Peter Convey