, Volume 138, Issue 3, pp 649-658

Light regime in an Arctic fjord: a study related to stratospheric ozone depletion as a basis for determination of UV effects on algal growth

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Solar radiation as a primary abiotic factor affecting productivity of seaweeds was monitored in the Arctic Kongsfjord on Spitsbergen from 1996 to 1998. The radiation was measured in air and underwater, with special emphasis on the UV-B (ultraviolet B, 280–320 nm) radiation, which may increase under conditions of stratospheric ozone depletion. The recorded irradiances were related to ozone concentrations measured concurrently in the atmosphere above the Kongsfjord with a balloon-carried ozone probe and by TOMS satellite. For comparison, an ozone index (a spectroradiometrically determined irradiance of a wavelength dependent on ozone concentration, standardized to a non-affected wavelength) was used to indicate the total ozone concentration present in the atmosphere. Weather conditions and, hence, solar irradiance measured at ground level were seldom stable throughout the study. UV-B irradiation was clearly dependent on the actual ozone concentration in the atmosphere with a maximal fluence rate of downward irradiance of 0.27 W m−2 on the ground and a maximal daily fluence (radiation exposure) of 23.3 kJ m−2. To characterize the water body, the light transmittance, temperature and salinity were monitored at two different locations: (1) at a sheltered shallow-water bay and (2) at a wave-exposed, deep-water location within the Kongsfjord. During the clearest water conditions in spring, the vertical attenuation coefficient (K d) for photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) was 0.12 m−1 and for UV-B 0.34 m−1. In spring, coinciding with low temperatures and clear water conditions, the harmful UV radiation penetrated deeply into the water column and the threshold irradiance negatively affecting primary plant productivity was still found at about 5–6 m depth. The water body in spring was characterized as a Jerlov coastal water type 1. With increasing temperature in summer, snow layers and glacier ice melted, resulting in a high discharge of turbid fresh water into the fjord. This caused a stratification in the optical features, the salinity and temperature of the water body. During melt-water input, a turbid freshwater layer was formed above the more dense sea water. Under these conditions, light attenuation was stronger than defined for a Jerlov coastal water type 9. Solar radiation was strongly attenuated in the first few metres of the water column. Consequently, organisms in deeper water are protected against harmful UV-B radiation. In the surface water, turbidity decreased when rising tide caused an advection of clearer oceanic water. In the course of the summer season, salinity continuously decreased and water temperature increased particularly in shallow water regions. The impact of global climate change on the radiation conditions under water and its effects on primary production of seaweeds are discussed, since organisms in the eulittoral and upper sublittoral zones are affected by UV radiation throughout the polar day. In clearer water conditions during spring, this may also apply to organisms inhabiting greater depths.

Received: 20 June 2000 / Accepted: 17 October 2000