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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Seasonal trends in usnic acid concentrations of Arctic, alpine and Patagonian populations of the lichen Flavocetraria nivalis.

The widespread secondary metabolite usnic acid, a dibenzofuran derivative, is the principal acetone-soluble compound in the lichen Flavocetraria nivalis. Seasonal variation in concentrations were studied in four populations of this lichen, three from Arctic-alpine habitats in the Northern Hemisphere, and one from Patagonian heathland in the Southern Hemisphere. Usnic acid is produced in large amounts, making up between 4% and 8% of thallus dry weight. Large seasonal variation is seen, with a trend towards peak levels in late spring and early summer, and generally low levels during autumn and winter. However, at an Arctic steppe in Central West Greenland, remarkably high levels were also detected during late autumn and early winter. Comparisons with environmental data using model selection procedures show that usnic acid levels of three of the populations are positively correlated with time of season, as measured by the proximity in time to nearest summer solstice, solar radiation levels, and temperature conditions. All these three variables are intercorrelated, thus indicating the same overall trend. For the three driest sites, precipitation rates are included in the models that best explain the variation in usnic acid. However, the explanatory powers of the models are generally low, partly due to high variation between thalli growing together and sampled at the same time. This is the first attempt to compare statistically seasonal variation in usnic acid concentrations and environmental variables, and thus also the first time it is shown that the concentration in various populations of the same lichen species shows different types of correlation with seasonal climatic changes.[1]


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