, Volume 137, Issue 3, pp 473-486

Microsensor studies of photosynthesis and respiration in larger symbiotic foraminifera. I The physico-chemical microenvironment of Marginopora vertebralis, Amphistegina lobifera and Amphisorus hemprichii

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Abstract

 The physico-chemical microenvironment of larger benthic foraminifera was studied with microsensors for O2, CO2, pH, Ca2+ and scalar irradiance. Under saturating light conditions, the photosynthetic activity of the endosymbiotic algae increased the O2 up to 183% air saturation and a pH of up to 8.6 was measured at the foraminiferal shell surface. The photosynthetic CO2 fixation decreased the CO2 at the shell down to 4.7 μM. In the dark, the respiration of host and symbionts decreased the O2 level to 91% air saturation and the CO2 concentration reached up to 12 μM. pH was lowered relative to the ambient seawater pH of 8.2. The endosymbionts responded immediately to changing light conditions, resulting in dynamic changes of O2, CO2 and pH at the foraminiferal shell surface during experimentally imposed light–dark cycles. The dynamic concentration changes demonstrated for the first time a fast exchange of metabolic gases through the perforate, hyaline shell of Amphistegina lobifera. A diffusive boundary layer (DBL) limited the solute exchange between the foraminifera and the surrounding water. The DBL reached a thickness of 400–700 μm in stagnant water and was reduced to 100–300 μm under flow conditions. Gross photosynthesis rates were significantly higher under flow conditions (4.7 nmol O2 cm−3 s−1) than in stagnant water (1.6 nmol O2 cm −3 s−1), whereas net photosynthesis rates were unaffected by flow conditions. The Ca2+ microprofiles demonstrated a spatial variation in sites of calcium uptake over the foraminiferal shells. Ca2+ gradients at the shell surface showed total Ca2+ uptake rates of 0.6 to 4.2 nmol cm−2 h−1 in A. lobifera and 1.7 to 3.6 nmol cm−2 h−1 in Marginopora vertebralis. The scattering and reflection of the foraminiferal calcite shell increased the scalar irradiance at the surface up to 205% of the incident irradiance. Transmittance measurements across the calcite shell suggest that the symbionts are shielded from higher light levels, receiving approximately 30% of the incident light for photosynthesis.

Received: 6 July 1999 / Accepted: 28 April 2000