, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 295-300

Carbon acquisition strategies for marine macroalgae

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Abstract

A model system was developed to analyse differences in carbon acquisition strategies among macroalgae. During photosynthesis in a limited volume of seawater the capability of the algae to assimilate inorganic carbon as well as to change the alkalinity of the seawater was analysed. These properties were then related to the status of the carbonate equilibrium system of the seawater. The experimental system was assumed to simulate the conditions in the boundary layer during periods of low water exchange or high intensity irradiations. Fundamental differences were found between different algal classes, suggesting that capabilities to adapt to specific environmental conditions may be connected with dissimilarities in carbon acquisition strategies. In general, green algae were able to reach the highest pH (10.8 at 5°C), and thus to achieve the highest reduction in the level of inorganic carbon via a simple HCO3 /OH ion exchange process. For brown algae, pH increases due to carbon uptake never exceeded pH 9.7 (9.5 in a saltwater scale). In spite of this, members of the Fucaceae (littoral brown algae) were able to extract almost all of the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). This was achieved through a gradual decrease in the alkalinity of the enclosed water, so that the carbon assimilation could continue without any concomitant increase in pH. For red algae, the specific response was an increase in the level of inorganic carbon. Thus, for this algal class, no specific strategy for handling a shortage of inorganic carbon was documented. Within each algal class, differences in pH and DIC compensation points could be related to differences in the depths at which the algal species occurred. This paper also introduces a low cost and convenient method of analysing DIC in seawater.

Communicated by T. Fenchel, Copenhagen