, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 137-144

Photosynthetic responses of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) to in situ manipulations of light intensity

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Photosynthetic responses of the temperate seagrass, Zostera marina L., were examined by manipulations of photon flux density in an eelgrass bed in Great Harbor, Woods Hole, MA during August 1981. Sun reflectors and light shading screens were placed at shallow (1.3 m) and deep (5.5 m) stations in the eelgrass bed to increase (+35% to +40%) and decrease (-55%) ambient photon flux densities. The portion of the day that light intensities exceeding the light compensation point for Z. marina (H comp) and the light saturation point (H sat) were determined to assess the impact of the reflectors and shades. The H comp and H sat periods at the deep station shading screen were most strongly affected; H comp was reduced by 11% and H sat was reduced by 52%. Light-saturated photosynthetic rates, dark respiration rates, leaf chlorophyll content, chlorophyll a/b, PSUO 2 size, PSU density, leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf turnover times and leaf production rates were determined at the end of three sets of 1- to 2-week experiments. None of the measured parameters were affected by the photon flux density manipulations at the shallow station; however, at the deep station leaf production rates were significantly reduced under the shading screen and chlorophyll a/b ratios were higher at the reflector. These results indicate that adjustment to short-term changes in light regime in Z. marina is largely by leaf production rates. Further, the most dramatic changes in the periods of compensating or saturating photon flux densities had the greatest impact on the measured photosynthetic responses.