MEPS 131:257-262 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps131257

Penetration of ultraviolet radiation into shallow water sediments: high exposure for photosynthetic communities

Garcia-Pichel F, Bebout BM

Benthic photosynthetic microorganisms are widespread in shallow-water sediments, microenvironments that are commonly assumed to be virtually opaque to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). We used a newly developed optical microprobe to measure the submillimeter penetration of solar UVR into a variety of these microenvironments. UVR trapping due to strong scattering occurred at the surface of some sediments, resulting in a surface maximum of scalar irradiance (E0) that could be significantly larger that the incident radiation. In the subsurface, E0 was typically extinguished in a quasi-exponential manner, with attenuation coefficients (310 nm) ranging from 4 to 21 mm-1, depending on sediment type. Ultraviolet B (at 310 nm) was extinguished to 1% of the incident between 1.25 and 0.23 mm from the surface. Within the euphotic zones of these sediments, however, the space-averaged UVB scalar irradiance was very high, between 15 and 33% of the incident. In natural waters, for example, the same parameter varies between 3 and 9% of the incident. Thus, in fact, photosynthesis in these environments must develop under strong UV stress, and it must be regarded as potentially labile to the effects of ozone depletion.


Sediments . Ultraviolet radiation . Primary productivity


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