Lichens have been extensively studied and described; however, recent evidence suggests that members of the bacterial community associated with them could contribute new functions to the symbiotic interaction. In this work, we compare the nitrogen-fixing guild associated with bipartite terricolous lichens with different types of photobiont: Peltigera
cyanolichens and Cladonia
chlorolichens. Since cyanobacteria contribute nitrogen to the symbiosis, we propose that chlorolichens have more diverse bacteria with the ability to fix nitrogen compared to cyanolichens. In addition, since part of these bacteria could be recruited from the substrate where lichens grow, we propose that thalli and substrates share some bacteria in common. The structure of the nitrogen-fixing guild in the lichen and substrate bacterial communities of both lichens was determined by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) of the nif
H gene. Multivariate analyses showed that the nitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with both types of lichen were distinguishable from those present in their substrates. Likewise, the structure of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria present in the cyanolichens was different from that of chlorolichens. Finally, the diversity of this bacterial guild calculated using the Shannon index confirms the hypothesis that chlorolichens have a higher diversity of nitrogen-fixing bacteria than cyanolichens.
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