The physiological response of seven strains of picophytoplankton to light, and its representation in a dynamic photosynthesis model

Beate Stawiarski (Lead Author), Erik Buitenhuis, Mehera Fallens

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Picophytoplankton dominate the phytoplankton community in wide ocean areas and are considered efficient in the acquisition of light compared to other phytoplankton groups. To quantify their photophysiological parameters we use 3 strains of picoprokaryotes and 4 strains of picoeukaryotes. We measure the acclimated response of the exponential growth rates and chlorophyll a to carbon ratios, as well as the instantaneous response of photosynthesis rates at 5-7 light intensities. We then use a dynamic photosynthesis model (Geider, MacIntyre, and Kana 1997) and extend it with a photoinhibition term. We derive five photophysiological parameters: the maximum rate of photosynthesis (PCm), the affinity to light (αchl), the photoinhibition term (βchl), the respiration rate (resp), and the maximum chlorophyll a to carbon ratio (θmax). We show that PCm is significantly lower for picoprokaryotes than for picoeukaryotes and increases significantly with increasing cell size. In turn, αchl decreases significantly with increasing maximum growth rate (µmax). The latter finding is contrary to a previously reported relationship for phytoplankton, but agrees with theoretical assumptions based on size. The higher efficiency in light acquisition gives picoprokaryotes an advantage in light limited environments at the expense of their maximum growth rate. In addition, our results indicate that the accumulation of long-term damage through photoinhibition during acclimation is not well represented by the dynamic photosynthesis model. Hence, we would recommend to distinguish between the effects of irreversible damage (on a time scale of days) on growth rates and of reversible damage (on a time scale of minutes) on photosynthesis rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S367–S380
Number of pages14
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue numberS1
Early online date24 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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