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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb 9, 2010; 107(6): 2527–2531.
Published online Jan 25, 2010. doi:  10.1073/pnas.0912348107
PMCID: PMC2823876

Flow enhances photosynthesis in marine benthic autotrophs by increasing the efflux of oxygen from the organism to the water


Worldwide, many marine coastal habitats are facing rapid deterioration due in part to human-driven changes in habitat characteristics, including changes in flow patterns, a factor known to greatly affect primary production in corals, algae, and seagrasses. The effect of flow traditionally is attributed to enhanced influx of nutrients and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) across the benthic boundary layer from the water to the organism however, here we report that the organism’s photosynthetic response to changes in the flow is nearly instantaneous, and that neither nutrients nor DIC limits this rapid response. Using microelectrodes, dual-pulse amplitude-modulated fluorometry, particle image velocimetry, and real time mass-spectrometry with the common scleractinian coral Favia veroni, the alga Gracilaria cornea, and the seagrass Halophila stipulacea, we show that this augmented photosynthesis is due to flow-driven enhancement of oxygen efflux from the organism to the water, which increases the affinity of the RuBisCO to CO2. No augmentation of photosynthesis was found in the absence of flow or when flow occurred, but the ambient concentration of oxygen was artificially elevated. We suggest that water motion should be considered a fundamental factor, equivalent to light and nutrients, in determining photosynthesis rates in marine benthic autotrophs.

Keywords: photorespiration, coral, seagrass, algae, RuBisCO

Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences
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