Desert Algae


Many green algae live in terrestrial habitats such desert microbiotic crust communities. My work in arid habitats reveals that desert green algae have multiple evolutionary origins. I use traditional and molecular techniques to understand the diversity of desert green algae, and am interested in the physiological adaptations that allow these algae to survive under extreme conditions (e.g., desiccation, high light).

Visit our Biotic Crust Project web site ( for information on specific localities that we have studied. Note that the web site is being transitioned into a new format. Check back for updates.

Selected articles on these topics are shown below.

  • Flechtner, V.R., N. Pietrasiak and L.A. Lewis (2013) Newly revealed diversity of eukaryotic algae from wilderness areas of Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP). Monographs of the Western North American Naturalist 6: 43-63.
  • Lunch, C.K., A.M. LaFountain, S. Thomas, H.A. Frank, L.A. Lewis & Z.G. Cardon (2013) The xanthophyll cycle and NPQ in diverse desert and aquatic green algae. Photosynthesis Research 115: 139-151. DOI: 10.1007/s11120-013-9846-x
  • Lewis, L.A. and F.R. Trainor (2012) Survival of Protosiphon botryoides (Chlorophyceae, Chlorophyta) from a Connecticut soil dried for 43 years. Phycologia 51: 662-665.
  • Kaplan, F., L.A. Lewis, J. Wastian, and A. Holzinger (2012) Plasmolysis effects and osmotic potential of two Klebsormidium strains from alpine habitats. Protoplasma 249: 789-804. DOI: 10.1007/s00709-011-0324-z
  • Cardon, Z.G., D.W. Gray and L.A. Lewis (2008) The green algal underground – evolutionary secrets of desert cells. BioScience 58: 114-122.
  • Gray, D. W., Z. G. Cardon and L. A. Lewis (2007) Photosynthetic recovery following desiccation of desert green algae (Chlorophyta) and their aquatic relatives. Plant Cell and Environment 30: 1240-1255.
  • Lewis, L. A. and P. O. Lewis (2005) Unearthing the molecular phylodiversity of desert soil green algae (Chlorophyta). Systematic Biology 54: 936-947. Helpful link to computing phylodiversity measures discussed in this paper

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