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Ecophysiology of Antarctic macroalgae: Effects of environmental light conditions on photosynthetic metabolism


, : Ecophysiology of Antarctic macroalgae: Effects of environmental light conditions on photosynthetic metabolism. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 74(2): 251-271, Junio

Daylength is the major environmental factor affecting the seasonal photosynthetic performance of Antarctic macroalgae. For example, the "season anticipation" strategy of large brown algae such as Ascoseira mirabilis and Desmarestia menziesii are based on the ability of their photosynthetic apparatus to make use of the available irradiance at increasing daylengths in late winter-spring. The seasonal development and allocation of biomass along the lamina of A. mirabilis are related to a differential physiological activity in the plant. Thus, intra-thallus differentiation in O2-based photosynthesis and carbon fixation represents a morpho-functional adaptation that optimizes conversion of radiant energy to primary productivity. In Desmarestia menziesii, reproductive phases show different photosynthetic characteristics. Small gametophytes and early stages of sporophytes, by virtue of their fine morphology, have a high content of pigments per weight unit, a high photosynthetic efficiency, very low light requirements for photosynthesis, and they are better suited to dim light conditions than adult sporophytes. This strategy ensures the completion of the life-cycle under seasonally changing light conditions. Low light requirements for growing and photosynthesizing are developed to cope with Antarctic seasonality and constitute adaptations to expand depth zonation of macroalgae. No differences in net Pmax and photosynthetic efficiency (alpha) among algae growing at depths between 10 and 30 m, suggest a low potential for photoacclimation enabling algae to grow over a wide range of prevailing light conditions. However, shortenings in the daily period during which plants are exposed to saturation irradiances for photosynthesis (Hsat) and low carbon balance (daily P/R ratios) at depths close to or larger than 30 m negatively affect primary productivity. In general, photosynthetic rates of Antarctic macroalgae at 0degreeC are comparable to those measured in species from temperate and cold-temperate regions. This clearly indicates a major physiological adaptation to the polar environment.

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