Radiative Energy Budgets in a Microbial Mat Under Different Irradiance and Tidal Conditions

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Journal Article
Microbial Ecology, 2019
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© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. Irradiance and temperature variations during tidal cycles modulate microphytobenthic primary production potentially by changing the radiative energy balance of photosynthetic mats between immersion and emersion and thus sediment daily net metabolism. To test the effect of tidal stages on the radiative energy budget, we used microsensor measurements of oxygen, temperature, and scalar irradiance to estimate the radiative energy budget in a coastal photosynthetic microbial mat during immersion (constant water column of 2 cm) and emersion under increasing irradiance. Total absorbed light energy was higher in immersion than emersion, due to a lower reflectance of the microbial mat, while most (> 97%) of the absorbed light energy was dissipated as heat irrespective of tidal conditions. During immersion, the upward heat flux was higher than the downward one, whereas the opposite occurred during emersion. At highest photon irradiance (800 μmol photon m −2  s −1 ), the sediment temperature increased ~ 2.5 °C after changing the conditions from immersion to emersion. The radiative energy balance showed that less than 1% of the incident light energy (PAR, 400–700 nm) was conserved by photosynthesis under both tidal conditions. At low to moderate incident irradiances, the light use efficiency was similar during the tidal stages. In contrast, we found an ~ 30% reduction in the light use efficiency during emersion as compared to immersion under the highest irradiance likely due to the rapid warming of the sediment during emersion and increased non-photochemical quenching. These changes in the photosynthetic efficiency and radiative energy budget could affect both primary producers and temperature-dependent bacterial activity and consequently daily net metabolism rates having important ecological consequences.
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