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Microb Ecol. 2005 May;49(4):528-35. Epub 2005 May 4.

Communities adjust their temperature optima by shifting producer-to-consumer ratio, shown in lichens as models: II. Experimental verification.

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  • 1Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, NV 89119-7363, USA.


The community adaptation hypothesis [7] predicts that lichens, simple communities of microorganisms, can adapt to a wide range of thermal regimes by regulating the ratio of primary producers (algae) and consumers (fungi): R(p/c). To test this hypothesis, we determined R(p/c) values by image analysis of cross sections of herbarium specimens of the lichen Cladina rangiferina, which is widely distributed between the Arctic and the tropics. We found that R(p/c) for C. rangiferina increases with summer temperature by more than one order of magnitude, consistent with the hypothesis. To assess the ecological significance of community adaptation (R(p/c) regulation), other adaptive mechanisms (e.g., photobiont substitution, genetic adaptation, and photosynthetic acclimation in North American Cladina spp.) were studied. Laboratory investigations with algae and fungi isolated in culture from live specimens suggested that the role of these mechanisms is relatively minor and cannot account for the high degree of lichen adaptability.

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