, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 430-443
Date: 15 Nov 2012

Diurnal and Tidal Variability in the Photobiology of the Seagrass Halophila johnsonii in a Riverine Versus Marine Habitat

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Abstract

The threatened seagrass Halophila johnsonii grows intertidally to 3 m deep in river-influenced and marine-influenced habitats. In this study, environmental parameters and photosynthetic characteristics of H. johnsonii were measured hourly for populations from adjacent riverine and marine habitats under opposite tidal regimes (high tide at midday, low tide at midday). The two populations exhibited habitat-specific diurnal responses, which indicate long-term acclimatization to their different environments. During periods with similar bottom irradiances, effective photochemical efficiencies and chlorophyll concentrations were comparatively greater in the riverine population, indicative of low-light acclimation. In addition, ultraviolet pigment absorbance (340–345 nm) was generally greater in the riverine plants and it generally increased following ebb tides and decreasing salinity, suggesting a stress response. Multivariate analyses indicated that photosynthetic characteristics were most dissimilar when environmental conditions were most dissimilar, i.e., riverine plants when low tide occurred at midday compared to marine plants when high tide occurred at midday. Salinity, photosynthetically active radiation, and optical water quality (K 0PAR, S CDOM, and a 412) were most correlated with variability in photosynthetic characteristics. As there is no significant genetic variation among populations of H. johnsonii, the photosynthetic characteristics of the riverine and marine populations we examined reflect acclimation to their respective habitats through a highly phenoplastic physiology.