Respiration-induced weathering patterns of two endolithically growing lichens


Corresponding author: B. Weber. Tel.: +49 (0)631-205-2810; fax: +49 (0)631-205-2998; e-mail:


The two endolithic lichen species Hymenelia prevostii and Hymenelia coerulea were investigated with regard to their thallus morphology and their effects on the surrounding substrate. The physiological processes responsible for the observed alterations of the rock were identified. Whereas the thallus surface of H. coerulea was level, H. prevostii formed small depressions that were deepest in the thallus center. In a cross-section, both species revealed an algal zone consisting of algal cavities parallel to the substrate surface and a fungal zone below. However, H. prevostii revealed significantly larger cavities with more than twice the cell number and a denser pattern of cavities than H. coerulea, resulting in a biomass per surface area being more than twice as large. Below H. prevostii the layer of macroscopically visibly altered rock material was about twice as deep and within this layer, the depletion of calcium and manganese was considerably higher. In simultaneous measurements of the oxygen uptake/oxygen release and pH shift, the isolated algal strains of both lichens revealed respiration-induced acidification of the medium in the dark. At higher light intensities, H. coerulea and to a lesser extent also H. prevostii alkalized the medium which may lessen the acidification effect somewhat under natural conditions. In a long-term growth experiment, the isolated algal strains of both lichens revealed acidification of the medium to a similar extent. Neither acidic lichen substances nor oxalic acid was identified. The significant differences between the weathering patterns of both species are based on the same respiration-induced acidification mechanism, with H. prevostii having a greater effect due to its higher biomass per area.