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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 422:77-91 (2011)  -  DOI:

Morpho-functional patterns and zonation of South Chilean seaweeds: the importance of photosynthetic and bio-optical traits

Iván Gómez1,*, Pirjo Huovinen1,2 

1Universidad Austral de Chile, Instituto de Biología Marina/Laboratorio Costero de Calfuco, Facultad de Ciencias, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile
2Centro i~mar, Universidad de Los Lagos, Casilla 557, Puerto Montt, Chile

ABSTRACT: We address the question of whether seaweed zonation can be characterized in terms of light absorption, pigmentation, photosynthetic parameters, photoinhibition, and thallus structure. Based on 32 seaweed species from the Pacific coast of southern Chile, intertidal assemblages exhibited higher light requirements for photosynthesis (Ek) and lower thallus light absorptances than subtidal algae. Ek values were lower than the highest measured irradiances at the corresponding natural depths, suggesting that photosynthesis in these organisms could potentially occur at lower depths. During summer, 1% of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) reached a depth of 23 m, while UV-B and UV-A wavelengths were completely attenuated at <3 and 6 m, respectively. Overall, the photobiological adaptations were associated with depth, morphology, and taxonomic group. Photoinhibition was similar in algae from different depths, although recovery was higher in upper littoral algae than in infra- and sublittoral species. The characteristics conferring competitive abilities in light use and light stress tolerance were not, or only partially, related to the classical Littler form-function model. The filamentous and foliose forms were able to acclimate rapidly to changing light and physical stress in the supralittoral zone. For infralittoral kelps living in a highly dynamic environment, higher cross-sectional area and enhanced in vivo light absorption were coupled with morphological features (e.g. massive thallus) that are advantageous in withstanding e.g. water movement. By contrast, the rapid physiological adjustments that allow algae to endure solar stress (e.g. photochemical down-regulation) were strongly dependent on the position on the shore but not on gross morphology.

KEY WORDS: Absorptance . Bio-optics . PAR . Photosynthetic characteristics . Seaweeds . Southern Chile . Underwater light . UV radiation . Zonation

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Cite this article as: Gómez I, Huovinen P (2011) Morpho-functional patterns and zonation of South Chilean seaweeds: the importance of photosynthetic and bio-optical traits. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 422:77-91.

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