MEPS 286:125-132 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps286125

Photosynthetic impact of hypoxia on in hospite zooxanthellae in the scleractinian coralPocillopora damicornis

Karin E. Ulstrup, Ross Hill, Peter J. Ralph*

Institute for Water and Environmental Resource Management, Department of Environmental Sciences,University of Technology, Sydney, Westbourne St. Gore Hill, New South Wales 2065, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Shallow water coral reefs may experience hypoxia under conditions of calm weather doldrums. Anaerobic responses of endosymbionts (i.e. zooxanthellae) within Pocillopora damicornis coral colonies were tested using both slow and fast chlorophyll a fluorescence induction kinetics. Zooxanthellae were examined in hospite when exposed to control conditions (26°C, 200 µmol photons m-2 s-1, 100% air saturation, 4 cm s-1 flow) and to 2 treatments of reduced air content (40 and 0%), achieved by controlling the N2:O2 ratio in water circulating at 2 cm s-1. Furthermore, the impact of water flow on photosynthesis was examined at 0% air saturation by turning off the flow entirely (0 cm s-1), thereby mimicking the environmental conditions of calm weather doldrums. Corals exposed to depleted air content (0% with and without flow) showed a significant decrease (p < 0.001) in effective quantum yield (φPSII) in comparison with controls. Maximum quantum yield was significantly reduced when gas exchange was inhibited (0% without flow), whereas non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) was not affected. Fast polyphasic fluorescence transients of chlorophyll a fluorescence showed a significant increase in minimum dark-adapted fluorescence, F0, when corals were exposed to anaerobic conditions. Furthermore, an increase in the J peak (2 ms) corresponding to the reduction of the primary electron acceptor, QA, was observed in 0% air saturation with flow. We found that the most sensitive parameters for detecting physiological change associated with hypoxia were φPSII using slow (pulse-amplitude modulation) fluorescence kinetics, as well as an increase in the O peak, ϕPo (electron transport efficiency before QA), and an elevation of the J peak on a double-normalised transient using fast (Plant Efficiency Analyser) induction kinetics.


KEY WORDS: Fluorescence · Fast-induction kinetics · Pulse-amplitude modulation · Photosystem II · PSII


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