Polar Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 85–100 | Cite as

Photophysiological responses of phytobenthic communities to the strong light and UV in Antarctic shallow lakes

  • Yukiko TanabeEmail author
  • Shuji Ohtani
  • Nobue Kasamatsu
  • Mitsuo Fukuchi
  • Sakae Kudoh
Original Paper


Light environment, community structure, pigments, and photophysiological properties of mat-forming phytobenthos were studied in four shallow Antarctic lakes in 2007 at maximum water depths of 1.7–2.5 m. All lakes were oligotrophic, and water transparencies were high, enabling 45–60% of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR, 400–700 nm) and 20–40% of ultraviolet radiation (300–400 nm) to reach the lake beds. Phytobenthic mats were dominated by cyanobacteria and green algae. Little PARL (500–700 nm) penetrated through the firm mat in the shallowest lake, while in the other lakes more (>20%) PARL got through the mats to the subsurface mat layers. Photochemical activities indicated almost no photoinhibition but low photosynthetic efficiency in all mat surface layers. Non-photochemical quenching was rarely detected, suggesting excess energy dissipation may not be efficient in the UV-rich environment. There was a positive correlation between photo-protective substances and incident radiation in the mats, and an inverse correlation between such substances and photochemical efficiency, suggesting that the phytobenthos survive by changing a light-protection/utilization balance. The communities under strong UV-B and PAR had firm mat textures and were characterized by high UV/photo-protective substance ratios that make them less transparent. Maximum relative electron transportation rates (rETRmax) and photochemical efficiencies, however, were low, possibly because the protective substances prevent efficient light usage. In contrast, communities under mild light were characterized by lower substance ratios and softer textures, while rETRmax values and photochemical efficiencies were greater. The phytobenthic mat surface seems to act as a filter for strong and harmful light, typically penetrating through the clear water of Antarctic lakes, and produces a milder light environment for the subsurface mat organisms.


Phytobenthos Antarctic lakes Photosynthesis Algae Pigments 



We acknowledge all the members of the 48th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE), especially its summer party leader Dr. T. Odate, for their support. We thank Ms A. Sugimoto, Dr T. Hoshino, and Dr D. Han for assistance with nutrient analysis and the field research. This study was carried out under the project named “Studies on climate processes and ecosystem dynamics in polar region”, sub-theme “Ecological studies on Antarctic terrestrial and lake environments” in the JARE-48th research projects.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 675 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 97 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yukiko Tanabe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shuji Ohtani
    • 2
  • Nobue Kasamatsu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mitsuo Fukuchi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Sakae Kudoh
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.National Institute of Polar ResearchTachikawaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Faculty of EducationShimane UniversityMatsueJapan
  3. 3.Department of Polar ScienceThe Graduate University for Advanced SciencesTachikawaJapan

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