Radiative energy budgets of phototrophic surface-associated microbial communities and their photosynthetic efficiency under diffuse and collimated light

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Frontiers in Microbiology, 2017, 8 (MAR)
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© 2017 Lichtenberg, Brodersen and Kühl. We investigated the radiative energy budgets of a heterogeneous photosynthetic coral reef sediment and a compact uniform cyanobacterial biofilm on top of coastal sediment. By combining electrochemical, thermocouple and fiber-optic microsensor measurements of O2, temperature and light, we could calculate the proportion of the absorbed light energy that was either dissipated as heat or conserved by photosynthesis. We show, across a range of different incident light regimes, that such radiative energy budgets are highly dominated by heat dissipation constituting up to 99.5% of the absorbed light energy. Highest photosynthetic energy conservation efficiency was found in the coral sediment under low light conditions and amounted to 18.1% of the absorbed light energy. Additionally, the effect of light directionality, i.e., diffuse or collimated light, on energy conversion efficiency was tested on the two surface-associated systems. The effects of light directionality on the radiative energy budgets of these phototrophic communities were not unanimous but, resulted in local spatial differences in heat-transfer, gross photosynthesis, and light distribution. The light acclimation index, Ek, i.e., the irradiance at the onset of saturation of photosynthesis, was > 2 times higher in the coral sediment compared to the biofilm and changed the pattern of photosynthetic energy conservation under light-limiting conditions. At moderate to high incident irradiances, the photosynthetic conservation of absorbed energy was highest in collimated light; a tendency that changed in the biofilm under sub-saturating incident irradiances, where higher photosynthetic efficiencies were observed under diffuse light. The aim was to investigate how the physical structure and light propagation affected energy budgets and light utilization efficiencies in loosely organized vs. compact phototrophic sediment under diffuse and collimated light. Our results suggest that the optical properties and the structural organization of phytoelements are important traits affecting the photosynthetic efficiency of biofilms and sediments.
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