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Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2009 Sep;8(9):1276-94. doi: 10.1039/b902763g. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

Effects of solar ultraviolet radiation on coral reef organisms.

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Unidad Académica Puerto Morelos, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Puerto Morelos, QR 77580, Mexico.


Organisms living in shallow-water tropical coral reef environments are exposed to high UVR irradiances due to the low solar zenith angles (the angle of the sun from the vertical), the natural thinness of the ozone layer over tropical latitudes, and the high transparency of the water column. The hypothesis that solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR, 290-400 nm) is an important factor that affects the biology and ecology of coral reef organisms dates only to about 1980. It has been previously suggested that increased levels of biologically effective ultraviolet B radiation (UVB, 290-320 nm), which is the waveband primarily affected by ozone depletion, would have relatively small effects on corals and coral reefs and that these effects might be observed as changes in the minimum depths of occurrence of important reef taxa such as corals. This conclusion was based on predictions of increases in UVR as well as its attenuation with depth using the available data on UVR irradiances, ozone levels, and optical properties of the water overlying coral reefs. Here, we review the experimental evidence demonstrating the direct and indirect effects of UVR, both UVB and ultraviolet A (UVA, 320-400 nm) on corals and other reef associated biota, with emphasis on those studies conducted since 1996. Additionally, we re-examine the predictions made in 1996 for the increase in UVB on reefs with currently available data, assess whether those predictions were reasonable, and look at what changes might occur on coral reefs in the future as the multiple effects (i.e. increased temperature, hypercapnia, and ocean acidification) of global climate change continue.

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