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Adv Space Res. 2000;26(12):2029-40.

Effects of solar UV-B radiation on aquatic ecosystems.

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Institut fur Botanik and Pharmazeutische Biologie der Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat, Erlangen, Germany.


Solar UV degrades dissolved organic carbon photolytically so that they can readily be taken up by bacterioplankton. On the other hand solar UV radiation inhibits bacterioplankton activity. Bacterioplankton productivity is far greater than previously thought and is comparable to phytoplankton primary productivity. According to the "microbial loop hypothesis," bacterioplankton is seen in the center of a food web, having a similar function to phytoplankton and protists. The penetration of UV and PAR into the water column can be measured. Marine waters show large temporal and regional differences in their concentrations of dissolved and particulate absorbing substances. A network of dosimeters (ELDONET) has been installed in Europe ranging from Abisko in Northern Sweden to Gran Canaria. Cyanobacteria are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen which is then made available to higher plants. The agricultural potential of cyanobacteria has been recognized as a biological fertilizer for wet soils such as in rice paddies. UV-B is known to impair processes such as growth, survival, pigmentation, motility, as well as the enzymes of nitrogen metabolism and CO2 fixation. The marine phytoplankton represents the single most important ecosystem on our planet and produces about the same biomass as all terrestrial ecosystems taken together. It is the base of the aquatic food chain and any changes in the size and composition of phytoplankton communities will directly affect food production for humans from marine sources. Another important role of marine phytoplankton is to serve as a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Recent investigations have shown a large sensitivity of most phytoplankton organisms toward solar short-wavelength ultraviolet radiation (UV-B); even at ambient levels of UV-B radiation many organisms seem to be under UV stress. Because of their requirement for solar energy, the phytoplankton dwell in the top layers of the water column. In this near-surface position phytoplankton will be exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation. This radiation has been shown to affect growth, photosynthesis, nitrogen incorporation and enzyme activity. Other targets of solar UV irradiation are proteins and pigments involved in photosynthesis. Whether or not screening pigments can be induced in phytoplankton to effectively shield the organisms from excessive UV irradiation needs to be determined. Macroalgae show a distinct pattern of vertical distribution in their habitat. They have developed mechanisms to regulate their photosynthetic activity to adapt to the changing light regime and protect themselves from excessive radiation. A broad survey was carried out to understand photosynthesis in aquatic ecosystems and the different adaptation strategies to solar radiation of ecologically important species of green, red and brown algae from the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean, Atlantic, polar and tropical oceans. Photoinhibition was quantified by oxygen exchange and by PAM (pulse amplitude modulated) fluorescence measurements based on transient changes of chlorophyll fluorescence.

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