Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Photobiological studies of Baltic Sea phytoplankton

Mika Raateoja

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Aquatic sciences and Tvärminne zoological station, University of Helsinki.

Phytoplankton ecology and productivity is one of the main branches of contemporary oceanographic research. Research groups in this branch have increasingly started to utilise bio-optical applications. My main research objective was to critically investigate the advantages and deficiencies of the fast repetition rate (FRR) fluorometry for studies of productivity of phytoplankton, and the responses of phytoplankton towards varying environmental stress. Second, I aimed to clarify the applicability of the FRR system to the optical environment of the Baltic Sea.

The FRR system offers a highly dynamic tool for studies of phytoplankton photophysiology and productivity both in the field and in a controlled environment. The FRR metrics obtain high-frequency in situ determinations of the light-acclimative and photosynthetic parameters of intact phytoplankton communities. The measurement protocol is relatively easy to use without phases requiring analytical determinations.

The most notable application of the FRR system lies in its potential for making primary productivity (PP) estimations. However, the realisation of this scheme is not straightforward. The FRR-PP, based on the photosynthetic electron flow (PEF) rate, are linearly related to the photosynthetic gas exchange (fixation of 14C) PP only in environments where the photosynthesis is light-limited. If the light limitation is not present, as is usually the case in the near-surface layers of the water column, the two PP approaches will deviate. The prompt response of the PEF rate to the short-term variability in the natural light field makes the field comparisons between the PEF-PP and the 14C-PP difficult to interpret, because this variability is averaged out in the 14C-incubations. Furthermore, the FRR based PP models are tuned to closely follow the vertical pattern of the underwater irradiance. Due to the photoacclimational plasticity of phytoplankton, this easily leads to overestimates of water column PP, if precautionary measures are not taken.

Natural phytoplankton is subject to broad-waveband light. Active non-spectral bio-optical instruments, like the FRR fluorometer, emit light in a relatively narrow waveband, which by its nature does not represent the in situ light field. Thus, the spectrally-dependent parameters provided by the FRR system need to be spectrally scaled to the natural light field of the Baltic Sea. In general, the requirement of spectral scaling in the water bodies under terrestrial impact concerns all light-adaptive parameters provided by any active non-spectral bio-optical technique.

The FRR system can be adopted to studies of all phytoplankton that possess efficient light harvesting in the waveband matching the bluish FRR excitation. Although these taxa cover the large bulk of all the phytoplankton taxa, one exception with a pronounced ecological significance is found in the Baltic Sea. The FRR system cannot be used to monitor the photophysiology of the cyanobacterial taxa harvesting light in the yellow-red waveband. These taxa include the ecologically-significant bloom-forming cyanobacterial taxa in the Baltic Sea.

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© University of Helsinki 2006

Last updated 09.10.2006

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