Adaptation of lichens to extreme conditions

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  • Richard A. Armstrong

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Lichens exhibit the classic features of stress-tolerant organisms, viz. slow growth rates, considerable longevity, low demand for nutrients, and the presence of specific adaptations to survive in the most inhospitable environments on Earth. The ability of lichens to tolerate the extremes posed by deserts, polar regions, and chemically rich environments involves both morphological and physiological adaptation and changes in ecological behaviour so that species adapt to relatively protected niches within an extreme environment. This chapter discusses those aspects of the lichen symbiosis relevant to survival in extreme conditions and then describes the adaptation of lichens to (1) wet forests, (2) deserts, (3) the Arctic, (4) alpine regions, (5) Antarctica, (6) chemically rich environments, and (7) extraterrestrial environments such as outer space and Mars. It is evident that the lichen symbiosis is more tolerant to hostile conditions than its symbionts, morphological and physiological adaptations are intimately associated, and convergent evolution has resulted in similar changes in different environments.


Publication date29 Dec 2017
Publication titlePlant Adaptation Strategies in Changing Environment
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9789811067440
Original languageEnglish


  • Adaptation, Antarctica, Arctic/alpine regions, Chemically rich environments, Deserts, Extraterrestrial environment, Extreme environments, Lichen

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