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Keywords:

  • Antarctica;
  • anthocyanins;
  • Grimmia antarctici;
  • ozone hole;
  • relative humidity;
  • temperature;
  • ultraviolet radiation;
  • UVB screening pigments

Abstract

Concentrations of UVB (ultraviolet B) absorbing pigments and anthocyanins were measured in three moss species, over a summer growing season in Antarctica. Pigment concentrations were compared with a range of climatic variables to determine if there was evidence that pigments were induced by UVB radiation, or other environmental parameters, and secondly if there were differences between species in their pigment responses. Significant seasonal differences in the potential UVB screening pigments were found, with the two cosmopolitan species Bryum pseudotriquetrum and Ceratodon purpureus appearing better protected from the potentially damaging effects of ozone depletion than the Antarctic endemic Schistidium antarctici. B. pseudotriquetrum accumulated the highest concentration of UVB screening pigments and showed positive associations between UVB radiation and both UVB absorbing and anthocyanin pigments. The negative associations between water availability measures and UVB absorbing and anthocyanin pigments also suggest that B. pseudotriquetrum is well protected in the desiccated state. This could offer B. pseudotriquetrum an advantage over the other species when high UVB radiation coincides with low temperatures and low water availability, thus limiting physiological activity and consequently, active photoprotective and repair mechanisms. As these pigments could act as either direct UVB screens or antioxidants, the results suggest that B. pseudotriquetrum is best equipped to deal with the negative effects of increased exposure to UVB radiation due to ozone depletion. The most exposed species, C. purpureus, has intermediate and stable concentrations of UVB absorbing pigments suggesting it may rely on constitutive UVB screens. Anthocyanin pigments were more responsive in this species and could offer increased antioxidant protection during periods of high UVB radiation. S. antarctici appears poorly protected and showed no evidence of any UV photoprotective response, providing additional evidence that this endemic is more vulnerable to climate change.