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High photobiont diversity in the common European soil crust lichen Psora decipiens

Ruprecht, Ulrike, Brunauer, Georg, Türk, Roman
Biodiversity and conservation 2014 v.23 no.7 pp. 1771-1785
Buellia, Peltigera, Psora, Trebouxia, chloroplasts, genetic variation, habitats, lichens, phylogeny, soil, Alps region, Austria, Germany, Spain, Sweden
The genetic diversity of green algal photobionts (chlorobionts) in soil crust forming lichens was studied as part of the SCIN-project (Soil Crust InterNational). A total of 64 lichen samples were collected from four different sites along latitudinal and altitudinal gradients in Europe (Tabernas/Spain; Hochtor-Großglockner/Austria; Gynge Alvar/Sweden; Ruine Homburg/Germany). The dominant lichen species at all four sites was Psora decipiens, often occurring with Buellia elegans, Fulgensia bracteata, F. fulgens and Peltigera rufescens. Genetic identification of chlorobionts was carried out using the nuclear marker (nrITS) and a chloroplast marker (psbL-J). We found P. decipiens to be associated with several different species of Trebouxia and Asterochloris, although previously described to only have Asterochloris sp. The phylogenetic analyses revealed a high chlorobiont diversity with 12 well supported clades, including Trebouxia asymmetrica, T. jamesii, T. impressa and other, as yet taxonomically unidentified clades (Trebouxia sp. URa1-4, T. sp. URa6, T. sp. URa7-13). Additionally, five clades of Asterochloris were identified (A. magna, A. sp. URa14 -17). Most of the chlorobiont species appeared to be cosmopolitan, but five clades were unevenly distributed between the sampling sites with only Trebouxia being found in the warm and dry Spanish habitats and combinations of Trebouxia and Asterochloris in the cooler and more humid habitats. The wide range of chlorobiont species might contribute to the observed domination of P. decipiens at all four research sites of the SCIN project which range from a desert in Spain to an alpine site in the Alps of Austria.