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J Photochem Photobiol B. 2001 Sep 1;62(1-2):35-42.

The role of solar UV radiation in the ecology of alpine lakes.

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University of Innsbruck, Institute of Zoology and Limnology, Austria.


Solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR, 290-400 nm) is a crucial environmental factor in alpine lakes because of the natural increase of the UVR flux with elevation and the high water transparency of these ecosystems. The ecological importance of UVR, however, has only recently been recognized. This review, examines the general features of alpine lakes regarding UVR, summarizes what is known about the role of solar UVR in the ecology of alpine lakes, and identifies future research directions. Unlike the pattern observed in most lowland lakes, variability of UV attenuation in alpine lakes is poorly explained by differences in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations, and depends mainly on optical characteristics (absorption) of the chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM). Within the water column of lakes with low DOC concentrations (0.2-0.4 mg l(-1)), UV attenuation is influenced by phytoplankton whose development at depth (i.e. the deep chlorophyll maximum) causes important changes in UV attenuation. Alpine aquatic organisms have developed a number of strategies to minimize UV damage. The widespread synthesis or bioaccumulation of different compounds that directly or indirectly absorb UV energy is one such strategy. Although most benthic and planktonic primary producers and crustacean zooplankton are well adapted to high intensities of solar radiation, heterotrophic protists, bacteria, and viruses seem to be particularly sensitive to UVR. Understanding the overall impact of UVR on alpine lakes would need to consider synergistic and antagonistic processes resulting from the pronounced climatic warming, which have the potential to modify the UV underwater climate and consequently the stress on aquatic organisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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