Spectral reflectance and integrity of cell membranes and chlorophyll relative to the concentration of airborne mineral elements in a lichen Academic Article uri icon


  • To determine the environmental impact of oil-combustion pollutants and soil dust on a lichen, we examined the spectral reflectance of thalli of the epiphytic fruticose lichen, Ramalina duriaei, expressed as values of NDVI (the normalized difference vegetation index). We analyzed electrolyte leakage caused by degradation of cell membranes in terms of electric conductivity of water, apart from chlorophyll degradation, the latter expressed as changes in the A435 nm/A415 nm ratio to indicate the physiological status of the lichen. The concentrations of Al, Cr, Fe, K, Ni, P, sulfate-S, Ti and V in the lichen thallus were measured to quantify the degree of pollution. Thalli of R. duriaei, growing in a nature reserve on the periphery of a 40-year-old industrial town, Ashdod, in southwest Israel were compared with thalli of R. duriaei from an unpolluted forest in the northeastern part of the country transplanted to the polluted areas in and around the town. After an exposure for 10 months, many transplants exhibited lower NDVI values, higher electric conductivity values as well as a lower A435 nm/A415 nm ratio. The three physical/physiological parameters thus reflected severe injury in the lichen transplants. The concentrations of Al, Cr, Fe, Ni, sulfate-S, Ti and V in the lichen transplants were found to correlate inversely with the NDVI values, whereas the concentrations of Fe, Ni, Ti and V were found to correlate with electric conductivity. The decrease in the A435 nm/A415 nm ratio was found to correlate with high concentrations of Al, Fe, Ni, sulfate-S, Ti and V in the lichen transplants, whereas the concentration of K and P correlated with both the NDVI value and the A435 nm/A415 nm ratio. It is concluded that in situ thalli of R. duriaei, the only indigenous fruticose lichen growing in the region of Ashdod, are endangered by the presence of pollutants and by acid rain due to the combustion of heavy fuel oil.

publication date

  • January 1, 1997