Marine Biology

, Volume 61, Issue 2–3, pp 95–105 | Cite as

Diel periodicity of photosynthesis in marine phytoplankton

  • L. W. HardingJr.
  • B. W. Meeson
  • B. B. Prézelin
  • B. M. Sweeney


Short-term changes in photosynthesis were documented for 17 of 24 marine phytoplankton species, representing a range of taxonomic groups. Periodicity in phytoplankton photosynthesis on light-dark cycles (diel periodicity) was widespread but not universal for the species studied. The centric diatoms Lauderia borealis, Ditylum brightwellii, Stephanopyxis turris, Coscinodiscus rex, Chaetoceros gracile, and Biddulphia mobiliensis had strong diel periodicity in photosynthetic capacity (Pmax). Amplitudes of the daily variations ranged from 2.9 to >50, with maxima in the morning or near midday, and with minima during the dark period, and these variations were not dependent on changes in cell pigmentation. There was some evidence for sustained photosynthetic periodicity in constant conditions in several diatoms, and an endogenous rhythm may have been present. The photosynthesis-irradiance (P-I) relationship was time-dependent for representative marine diatoms, with both the initial slope (α) and the asymptote (Pmax) of P-I curves exhibiting significant synchronous diel oscillations. Moreover, detailed studies of the amplitude and timing of photosynthetic periodicity for the diatoms L. borealis and D. brightwellii demonstrated large temporal variations in photosynthesis with morning maxima. These P-I oscillations are discussed with reference to models of primary production which use the relationship between photosynthesis and light as a component of predictive equations for phytoplankton growth in the sea.


Phytoplankton Photosynthesis Photosynthetic Capacity Phytoplankton Growth Phytoplankton Species 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. W. HardingJr.
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. W. Meeson
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. B. Prézelin
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. M. Sweeney
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Oceanic Biology Group, Marine Science InstituteUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

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