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Do lichens have “memory” of their native nitrogen environment?

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This study aimed to deepen the knowledge about intraspecific mechanisms regulating nitrogen tolerance in lichens to wet nitrogen deposition. Thalli of the nitrophilous lichen Xanthoria parietina were collected from environments with different nitrogen availabilities and immersed in 80 mL of ammonium sulphate (NH4)2SO4 solutions with distinct concentrations (0, 0.025, 0.05 and 0.25 M) for 5 h per day during 3 days in a week. After each soaking event, lichens were air dried. After each treatment, maximal PSII efficiency, localization of ammonium ions, concentrations of K+ and Mg2+ and thalli buffer capacity were determined. Our results show that lichens are marked by their native nitrogen environment, since there were important differences between the physiological responses of X. parietina thalli previously grown in an area with high nitrogen deposition (nitrogen emissions of ca. 13,000 t/year) and those previously grown in an unpolluted area (nitrogen emissions of ca. 500 t/year). Greater N availability seems to enable X. parietina to cope better with the effects of nitrogen pollution.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


Ca2+ :

Calcium ion


Cesium chloride

H2SO4 :

Sulphuric acid

K+ :

Potassium ion

KNO3 :

Potassium nitrate

LaCl3 :

Lanthanum chloride

Mg2+ :

Magnesium ion




Sodium hydroxide

NiCl2 :

Nickel chloride

NH3 :


NH4 + :

Ammonium ion


Ammonium chloride

NH4NO3 :

Ammonium nitrate

(NH4)2SO4 :

Ammonium sulphate


Xanthoriaparietina from Arrábida


Xanthoriaparietina from hyppodrome


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Correspondence to Stefano Loppi.

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Munzi, S., Loppi, S., Cruz, C. et al. Do lichens have “memory” of their native nitrogen environment?. Planta 233, 333–342 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-010-1300-0

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  • Ammonium load
  • Buffer capacity
  • Chlorophyll fluorescence
  • Electrolyte leakage
  • Membrane damage
  • Xanthoria