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Adaptation of light-harvesting pigments to downwelling light and the consequent photosynthetic performance of the eulittoral rockweeds Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus


We compared the effect of habitat and water depth on the light-harvesting pigment content for Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus at two near-shore stations in Long Island Sound (USA). Excised pieces of seaweeds were attached at depth intervals to a vertically buoyed line, and left in situ for 7 days. For comparison, fronds were collected from sun and shade habitats in the littoral zone. The three major antenna (light-harvesting) pigments increased in concentration with depth or shade. Chlorophyll c to a ratios remained stable at about 0.2. Fucoxanthin to chlorophyll a ratios decreased by 20 to 30% with depth or shade. Although pigment composition for the two rockweed species was equivalent, the maximum photosynthetic performance of F. vesiculosus exceeded that of A. nodosum by a factor of 2, while the compensation depths for 4 m-adapted A. nodosum and F. vesiculosus under natural limiting light conditions were equivalent. Plants held at 4 m had higher photosynthetic rates compared with plants held at 0 m, no matter the depth of measurement. Indirect evidence indicates that the enhanced photosynthesis of 4 m-adapted plants is due not only to higher concentrations of antenna pigments but to other physiological factors as well. We conclude that the clearly delineated vertical distribution of these two canopy species, the F. vesiculosus zone over the A. nodosum zone, is not determined by light quantity or quality, but by biotic factors as evidenced by the experiments of Menge which are cited herein.

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Communicated by M.R. Tripp, Newark

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Ramus, J., Lemons, F. & Zimmerman, C. Adaptation of light-harvesting pigments to downwelling light and the consequent photosynthetic performance of the eulittoral rockweeds Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus . Mar. Biol. 42, 293–303 (1977).

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  • Chlorophyll
  • Photosynthesis
  • Littoral Zone
  • Depth Interval
  • Pigment Content