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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 211:43-49 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps211043

In situ impact of solar ultraviolet radiation on photosynthesis and DNA in temperate marine phytoplankton

E. Walter Helbling1,*, Anita G. J. Buma2, M. Karin de Boer2, Virginia E. Villafañe1

1Estación de Fotobiología Playa Unión, Casilla de Correos No. 153 - (9100) Trelew, Chubut, Argentina and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)
2Department of Marine Biology, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: In situ experiments were conducted at various depths in the water column to determine the impact of solar UV radiation (280 to 400 nm) upon photosynthesis and DNA of natural phytoplankton assemblages from mid-latitudes of Patagonia (Bahía Bustamante, Chubut, Argentina; 45°S, 66.5°W). The effects of UV radiation were significant at the surface; however, the impact decreased rapidly with depth: at 3 m there was no measurable DNA damage accumulation, whereas at 6 m photosynthetic inhibition was almost zero. UV-A radiation (315 to 400 nm) was mostly responsible for photosynthetic inhibition, while UV-B radiation (280 to 315 nm) had a lesser effect on this process. However, UV-B radiation was very effective in damaging the DNA through the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) in surface waters. The high initial CPD level found in the natural phytoplankton assemblage decreased when samples were incubated at 3 or 6 m, indicating that at these depths repair, dilution or disappearance of damage occurred. Phytoplankton assemblages were dominated by cells less than 2 µm in effective diameter; this cell size category seems to be more resistant to photosynthetic inhibition, but vulnerable to CPD accumulation, as compared with larger eukaryotic phytoplankters (i.e., Phaeodactylum sp.).

KEY WORDS: UV · Phytoplankton · DNA · CPD · Thymine dimers · Photosynthesis inhibition · Mid latitudes

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