Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 187–217

Aquatic primary production in relation to microalgal responses to changing light: A review

  • J. M. Ferris
  • R. Christian

DOI: 10.1007/BF00877059

Cite this article as:
Ferris, J.M. & Christian, R. Aquatic Science (1991) 53: 187. doi:10.1007/BF00877059


Dynamic aspects of algal photosynthesis are set against the background of physical water motions which change the light experienced by the phytoplankton. These time-dependent photosynthetic responses are reviewed in relation to the proposition that phytoplankton primary production may be incorrectly estimated by the commonly used “static” incubation of light and dark bottles for periods significantly longer than the response-time of phytoplankton to changing light. This proposition is supported by the clear overlap between the timescales which characterize water motions and the timescales reported for the complex responses of algae to changing light. Empirical studies comparing static and dynamic incubations have been inconclusive, as have models incorporating some representation of the dynamic photosynthetic response to changing light. These results reflect weaknesses in the simple formulations used to describe photosynthesis in relation to irradiance, the simplicity of physical schemes used to generate changes in irradiance with time, and a lack of data (field and laboratory) on dynamic responses of microalgae to changing light. The quantitative significance of many physiological mechanisms is not known in relation to their effect on photosynthesis.

Key words

Photosynthesistimescalesrespirationprimary productionchanging lightphytoplankton

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Ferris
    • 1
  • R. Christian
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Water ResearchUniversity of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia
  2. 2.Environmental SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia