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Photosynthetic action spectra and adaptation to spectral light distribution in a benthic cyanobacterial mat.

  • B B Jorgensen
  • Y Cohen
  • D J Des Marais
Publication Date
Apr 01, 1987


We studied adaptation to spectral light distribution in undisturbed benthic communities of cyanobacterial mats growing in hypersaline ponds at Guerrero Negro, Baja California, Mexico. Microscale measurements of oxygen photosynthesis and action spectra were performed with microelectrodes; spectral radiance was measured with fiber-optic microprobes. The spatial resolution of all measurements was 0.1 mm, and the spectral resolution was 10 to 15 nm. Light attenuation spectra showed absorption predominantly by chlorophyll a (Chl a) (430 and 670 nm), phycocyanin (620 nm), and carotenoids (440 to 500 nm). Blue light (450 nm) was attenuated 10-fold more strongly than red light (600 nm). The action spectra of the surface film of diatoms accordingly showed activity over the whole spectrum, with maxima for Chl a and carotenoids. The underlying dense Microcoleus population showed almost exclusively activity dependent upon light harvesting by phycobilins at 550 to 660 nm. Maximum activity was at 580 and 650 nm, indicating absorption by phycoerythrin and phycocyanin as well as by allophycocyanin. Very little Chl a-dependent activity could be detected in the cyanobacterial action spectrum, even with additional 600-nm light to excite photosystem II. The depth distribution of photosynthesis showed detectable activity down to a depth of 0.8 to 2.5 mm, where the downwelling radiant flux at 600 nm was reduced to 0.2 to 0.6% of the surface flux.

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