Snow algae from northwest Svalbard: their identification, distribution, pigment and nutrient content
We mapped coloured snow during the summers of 1995 and 1996 at about 60 localities in the coastal region of northwest Spitsbergen. The colour was mainly induced by snow algae (Chlamydomonas spp. and Chloromonas spp.). In the late summer of 1996, snow algal fields of several hundred meters in size were observed along the west and north coasts. They had no preferred geographical orientation. We studied the abundance of primary pigments and secondary carotenoids from different developmental stages of the snow algae of Chlamydomonas spp. under natural conditions. Extensive accumulation of astaxanthin and its esters accompanied the transition from green biflagellated cells to orange spores, hypnozygotes and dark-red cysts. The photoprotective effect of the secondary carotenoids is enhanced by concentration in cytoplasmic lipid droplets around the nucleus and chloroplast. The nutrient content of melt-water and snow algae had no direct correlation with the content of secondary carotenoids. Relatively high Fe, Ca, P, K and Al contents of snow algae were found, suggesting a good supply of these mineral elements.
KeywordsCarotenoid Lipid Droplet Nutrient Content Astaxanthin Mineral Element
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