Diffusion or advection? Mass transfer and complex boundary layer landscapes of the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus

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Journal Article
Journal of the Royal Society, Interface, 2017, 14 (128)
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© 2017 The Author(s). The role of hyaline hairs on the thallus of brown algae in the genus Fucus is long debated and several functions have been proposed. We used a novel motorized set-up for two-dimensional and three-dimensional mapping with O2 microsensors to investigate the spatial heterogeneity of the diffusive boundary layer (DBL) and O2 flux around single and multiple tufts of hyaline hairs on the thallus of Fucus vesiculosus. Flow was a major determinant of DBL thickness, where higher flow decreased DBL thickness and increased O2 flux between the algal thallus and the surrounding seawater. However, the topography of the DBL varied and did not directly follow the contour of the underlying thallus. Areas around single tufts of hyaline hairs exhibited a more complex mass-transfer boundary layer, showing both increased and decreased thickness when compared with areas over smooth thallus surfaces. Over thallus areas with several hyaline hair tufts, the overall effect was an apparent increase in the boundary layer thickness. We also found indications for advective O2 transport driven by pressure gradients or vortex shedding downstream from dense tufts of hyaline hairs that could alleviate local mass-transfer resistances. Mass-transfer dynamics around hyaline hair tufts are thus more complex than hitherto assumed and may have important implications for algal physiology and plant-microbe interactions.
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