MEPS 585:49-69 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12398

Pigment composition and photoprotection of Arctic sea ice algae during spring

Virginie Galindo1,*, Michel Gosselin2, Johann Lavaud3, Christopher John Mundy1, Brent Else4, Jens Ehn1, Marcel Babin3, Søren Rysgaard1,5,6

1Centre for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada
2Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada
3UMI 3376 TAKUVIK, Département de biologie, CNRS/Université Laval, Québec-Océan, Québec, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada
4Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
5Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark
6Greenland Climate Research Centre, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, PO Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: From the beginning of spring to the melt period, ice algae in the bottom of Arctic sea ice experience a large irradiance range, varying from <0.1% up to 25–30% of the incoming visible radiation. The increase in spring is usually rapid, with a varying photoacclimative response by bottom ice algae to protect themselves against excess light, such as changes in cellular pigment composition. This study focused on the temporal variation in pigment composition of bottom ice algae under 2 contrasting snow depths (thin and thick) during spring. Controlled experiments were also carried out to investigate the photoprotective capacity of ice algae to relatively high irradiances during a short-term period (<6 h). Ice algae were able to photoacclimate rapidly and effectively to irradiance ranging from 10 to 100 µmol photons m-2 s-1. However, we observed contrasting responses in photoacclimation depending on the ice algal community composition and their light history. Our experimental results suggest that the xanthophyll cycle (diadinoxanthin to diatoxanthin conversion) and D1-protein recycling play an important role in stabilizing photoprotection in ice algae. In addition, bottom ice algae likely employed a ‘cellular light-exposure memory’ strategy in order to improve their photoacclimative response to changing light exposure. According to our data, this process could be maintained over at least 2 wk. Hence, ice algae may be more resilient to varying light conditions than previously thought and may be well-adapted for the expected future light regime changes associated with variability in snow and sea ice cover.


KEY WORDS: Arctic · Snow melt · Ice algae · Pigments · Photoacclimation · Light memory


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Cite this article as: Galindo V, Gosselin M, Lavaud J, Mundy CJ and others (2017) Pigment composition and photoprotection of Arctic sea ice algae during spring. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 585:49-69. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12398

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