Changes in photosynthetic pigment concentration in seaweeds as a function of water depth

Journal Article

We conducted a study of the relationship between changes in photosynthetic pigment content and water depth in Great Harbor near Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA, on the green algae Ulva lactuca and Codium fragile and the red algae Porphyra umbilicalis and Chondrus crispus. A calibrated underwater photometer equipped with spectral band filters measured light attenuation by the water column. The depth required for a 10-fold diminution of photon flux was 3.6, 5.3, 6.0 and 6.0 m for red, blue, yellow and green light, respectively. Seaweeds were attached to vertically buoyed lines and left to adapt for 7 days; then, with their positions reversed, they were allowed to readapt for 7 days. All species showed greater photosynthetic pigment content with increased depth. Further, the ratio of phycobiliproteins and chlorophyll b to chlorophyll a increased with depth. Changes in pigment content were reversible and occurred in the absence of cell division. There was a net loss of pigments near the surface (high irradiance), and subsequent synthesis when seaweeds were transferred to a position deep in the water column (low irradiance). In contrast, seaweeds which were found in intertidal habitats changed only their pigment concentration, and not pigment ratio, a phenomena analogous to higher plant sun and shade adaptation. Therefore, seaweeds modify their photon-gathering photosynthetic antennae to ambient light fields in the water column by both intensity adaptation and complementary chromatic adaptation. © 1976 Springer-Verlag.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ramus, J; Beale, SI; Mauzerall, D; Howard, KL

Published Date

  • 1976

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 37 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 223 - 229

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0025-3162

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/BF00387607