MEPS 199:293-311 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps199293

Impact of ultraviolet radiation on marine crustacean zooplankton and ichthyoplankton: a synthesis of results from the estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada

Howard I. Browman1,*, Carolina Alonso Rodriguez1, France Béland1, John J. Cullen3, Richard F. Davis3, Juliana H. M. Kouwenberg1,**, Penelope S. Kuhn1,***, Bruce McArthur4, Jeffrey A. Runge1, Jean-François St-Pierre1, Russell D. Vetter5

1Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Maurice-Lamontagne Institute, Science Branch, Division of Ocean Sciences, Secondary Production and Recruitment Processes Section, 850 Route de la Mer, Mont-Joli, Québec G5H 3Z4, Canada
2Département d¹Océanographie, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300, allée des Ursulines, C.P. 3300, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada
3Center for Environmental Observation Technology and Research, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J1, Canada
4Environment Canada, Atmosphere Environment Service, Experimental Studies Division, 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview, Ontario, M3H 5T4, Canada
5NOAA, Southwest Fishe Science Center, 8604 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California, USA 92038-92037
Present addresses: *Institute of Marine Research, Aquaculture Centre, Austevoll Aquaculture Research Station, 5392 Storebø, Norway. E-mail: **Columbia University, Biosphere 2 Center, 32540 South Bio-sphere Road, PO Box 689, Oracle, Arizona, 85623, USA ***Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J1, Canada

ABSTRACT: The objectives of the research program reported upon here were (1) to measure ambient levels of UV radiation and determine which variables most strongly affected its attenuation in the waters of the estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada; and (2) to investigate the potential direct impacts of UV radiation on species of crustacean zooplankton and fish whose early life stages are planktonic. In this geographic region, productivity determining biophysical interactions occur in the upper 0 to 30 m of the water column. Measurements of the diffuse attenuation coefficients for ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B, 280 to 320 nm) at various locations in this region indicated maximum 10% depths (the depth to which 10% of the surface energy penetrates at a given wavelength) of 3 to 4 m at a wavelength of 310 nm. Organisms residing in this layer‹including the eggs and larvae of Calanus finmarchicus and Atlantic cod Gadus morhua‹are exposed to biologically damaging levels of UV radiation. As a result of these physical and biological characteristics, this system offered a relevant opportunity to assess the impacts of UV on subarctic marine ecosystems. Eggs of C. finmarchicus were incubated under the sun, with and without the UV-B and/or UV-A (320 to 400 nm) wavebands. UV-exposed eggs exhibited low percent hatching compared to those protected from UV: UV radiation had a strong negative impact on C. finmarchicus eggs. Further, percent hatching in UV-B-exposed eggs was not significantly lower than that in eggs exposed to UV-A only: under natural sunlight, UV-A radiation appeared to be more detrimental to C. finmarchicus embryos than was UV-B. In analogous experiments with Atlantic cod eggs, exposure to UV-B produced a significant negative effect. However, UV-A had no negative effect on cod eggs. Additional experiments using a solar simulator (SS) revealed high wavelength-dependent mortality in both C. finmarchicus and cod embryos exposed to UV. The strongest effects occurred under exposures to wavelengths below 312 nm. At the shorter wavelengths (<305 nm) UV-B-induced mortality was strongly dose-dependent, but (for both C. finmarchicus and cod) not significantly influenced by dose-rate. Thus, at least within the limits of the exposures under which the biological weighting functions (BWFs) were generated, reciprocity held. The BWFs derived for UV-B-induced mortality in C. finmarchicus and cod eggs were similar in shape to the action spectrum for UV-B effects on naked DNA. Further, the wavelength-dependence of DNA damage was similar to that for the mortality effect. These observations suggest that UV-induced mortality in C. finmarchicus and cod eggs is a direct result of DNA damage. There was no evidence of a detrimental effect of UV-A radiation in these SS-derived results. A mathematical model that includes the BWFs, vertical mixing of eggs, meteorological and hydrographic conditions, and ozone depletion, indicates that UV-induced mortality in the C. finmarchicus egg population could be as high as 32.5%, while the impact on the cod egg population was no more than 1.2%. Variability in cloud cover, water transparency (and the variables that affect it), and vertical distribution and displacement of planktonic organisms within the mixed layer can all have a greater effect on the flux of UV-B radiation to which they are exposed than will ozone layer depletion at these latitudes. Our observations indicate that C. finmarchicus and cod eggs present in the first meter of the water column (likely only a small percentage of the total egg populations) are susceptible to UV radiation. However, although exposure to UV can negatively impact crustacean zooplankton and ichthyoplankton populations, these direct effects are likely minimal within the context of all the other environmental factors that produce the very high levels of mortality typically observed in their planktonic early life stages. The impact of indirect effects‹which may well be of much greater import‹has yet to be evaluated.

KEY WORDS: Atlantic cod · Gadus morhua · Calanus finmarchicus · UV-B · UV-A · Dissolved organic carbon · Underwater optics · Radiometry · Attenuation coefficients · Ozone depletion · Biological weighting functions · DNA damage · Cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers

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