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Structural Impacts on Thallus and Algal Cell Components of Two Lichen Species in Response to Low-Level Air Pollution in Pacific Northwest Forests

  • Hyung-Shim Y. Ra (a1), Laura Rubin (a1) and Richard F.E. Crang (a1)


Lichens have long been regarded as bioindicators of air pollution, and structural studies typically have indicated negative impacts in highly polluted areas. In this research, Parmelia sulcata and Platismatia glauca were collected from one clean and two polluted sites in the Pacific Northwest forests of the United States to investigate the anatomical and ultrastructural responses of relatively resistant lichens to moderate air pollution. Light microscopy of polluted materials revealed only slight increases in the algal cell proportions of the thallus, and a decrease in the fungal cells of the medulla. Using transmission electron microscopy, increased lipid droplets in the cytoplasm and an increase in the cell wall thickness of the photobionts were found in the polluted lichens. These results were compared with physiological data in which the net carbon uptake did not show any significant differences; however, the total chlorophyll content was heightened in the polluted samples. The increased total chlorophyll content and the absence of any changes in the algal cell proportions of the polluted samples suggest that the photobionts possessed a higher chlorophyll content per unit volume of the photobiont at polluted sites. The results also indicate that lichens have altered their storage allocation in different cellular compartments. This may be a result of symbiotic readjustment(s) between the photobiont and the mycobiont. In comparison with the physiological results from these two species, these changes do not represent damaging effects by low-level air pollution.


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Structural Impacts on Thallus and Algal Cell Components of Two Lichen Species in Response to Low-Level Air Pollution in Pacific Northwest Forests

  • Hyung-Shim Y. Ra (a1), Laura Rubin (a1) and Richard F.E. Crang (a1)


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