, Volume 146, Issue 5, pp 903-914

Short-term variability in the photosynthetic activity of microphytobenthos as detected by measuring rapid light curves using variable fluorescence

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Short-term variability in the photosynthetic activity of microphytobenthos assemblages was studied by measuring chlorophyll fluorescence rapid light curves (RLC), using pulse amplitude modulated (PAM) fluorometry. Measurements carried out on undisturbed samples under dark–light cycles revealed large diel oscillations in both the initial slope of the RLC (α) and in the maximum relative electron transport rate (ETRm). Short-term variations in RLC parameters were also observed, closely following changes in incident photon irradiance (E). Increases in irradiance were followed by decreases in α and increases in ETRm, resulting in significant correlations between the light-saturation parameter E k and E. These results were interpreted as resulting from the onset of reversible energy-dissipating, non-photochemical quenching mechanisms and of compensatory high light-induced activation of carbon metabolism activity. Short-term RLC variability was shown to result mainly from physiological causes and to be detectable only by using short (10–20 s) light steps during RLC construction. Dark-adapted samples kept under constant conditions exhibited apparently endogenous rhythms in RLC parameters and in the maximum quantum yield, F v/F m, coincident with vertical migratory movements occurring during subjective photoperiods. These fluctuations appeared to result from the interaction between migratory rhythms and the physiological responses, and from the endogenous activation of processes affecting both the efficiency of energy transfer from light-harvesting antennae to the photosystem II (PSII) reaction centres or from non-radiative pathways (F v/F m, α) and the reactions downstream of PSII (ETRm).

Communicated by M. Kühl, Helsingør