Changes in pools of depsidones and melanins, and their function, during growth and acclimation under contrasting natural light in the lichen Lobaria pulmonaria


Author for correspondence: Yngvar Gauslaa Tel: +47 64965784 Fax: +47 64965801 Email:


  • • This study analysed relationships between secondary chemistry, lichen growth rates and external habitat factors for two groups of UV-B-absorbing secondary compounds in the lichen Lobaria pulmonaria in order to test some hypotheses on their formation and function.
  • • Medullary depsidones and cortical melanins were quantified in thalli transplanted to three successional forest stands (shaded young forest, open old forest, sun-exposed clear-cut area) and subjected to different watering regimes (spraying with water, water + nitrogen, no spraying). Growth rates were already known.
  • • The total concentration of all seven depsidones was constant across the entire range of growth rates and sun exposures, showing that these depsidones serve functions other than photoprotection. Thalli from the well-lit transplantation sites had the highest synthesis of melanins. Within each forest type there was a trade-off between growth and melanin synthesis. Melanins and photosynthetic acclimation enhanced survival on a subsequent exposure to high light intensity, despite excessive temperatures resulting from higher absorption of solar energy in melanic thalli relative to pale thalli.
  • • In conclusion, the highly responsive melanic pigments play a photoprotective role in light acclimation, whereas the constant amount of depsidones across a wide spectrum of growth ranges and irradiances is consistent with herbivore defence functions.