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The photophysiology of rocky intertidal microphytobenthic biofilms

Ginnever, Naomi Elizabeth 2014. The photophysiology of rocky intertidal microphytobenthic biofilms. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Rocky shore microphytobenthic biofilms are areas of high biodiversity, and are protected under UK and European Union legislation. Despite this, little is known about the photophysiology of these biofilms. This study aimed to provide a new contribution to microphytobenthic research with the addition of photophysiological knowledge focussing on the rocky intertidal to add to the extensive photophysiological research which has focussed on mudflats. More specifically the photoregulatory mechanisms of rocky shore biofilms had not been studied prior to this work. This study aimed to determine the effects of ambient environmental conditions, community structure and grazing on the photophysiology of the biofilms and elucidate the complex relationships between the abiotic and biotic factors which influence the biofilm. The community structure of the biofilm changed seasonally, with larger species (> 40 μm valve length and > 25 μm diameter) such as Parlibellus delognei being dominant during the winter months (December, January and February) and smaller ones (<40 μm valve length and < 25 μm diameter) such as Navicula bottnica during the spring months (March, April and May) indicating an environmental influence on the community structure of the biofilm. The biofilms were found to die-off (biomass below detection levels) in April and May and grow back in the November and December during a ‘reproductive phase’. An observed photophysiological ‘seasonality’ was primarily the result of the timing of the‘reproductive phase’ of the biofilm, with higher maximum relative electron transport rates (rETRmax) being recorded during November and December (on average 85 compared to 60 relative units), when these biofilms were growing after the spring die-off. High temperature and light dose had a negative effect on the rETRmax, particularly for biofilms on the upper shore sites. It was concluded that the combination of increased temperature and light dose, reducing rETRmax, and so productivity, and increased grazing contributed significantly to the spring dieoff with cells unable to replicate rapidly enough to compensate for increased grazing. By exposing biofilms to different temperatures ex-situ it was found that the lower shore biofilms ii were more resilient to high (> 25 °C) and low (< 10 °C) temperature with a smaller reduction in rETRmax, and ΔF/Fm’ observed in comparison to upper shore. Temperature was found to induce movement in the tube-forming upper shore species Navicula bottnica. This was likely to act as a secondary photoregulation strategy as it was found that high temperatures resulted in a reduced ability to induce non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). Biofilms were also treated with Latrunculin A (LAT-A) and DL- Dithiothreitol (DTT) in situ, and by comparing the photosynthetic patterns of response over an exposure period it was found that the upper shore biofilms utilised NPQ as the primary means of photoregulation whereas the lower shore biofilms utilised cell movement as the primary photoregulatory mechanisms. The upper and lower shore biofilms also utilised secondary mechanisms, migration in the upper shore samples, and NPQ in the lower shore samples, of downregulation, which allowed the cells to persist on the rocky shore where the rapid changes in environmental conditions result in a high stress environment. The overarching conclusion from this study is that rocky shore biofilms utilise a combination of photoregulatory mechanisms dependent upon life form in order to survive in an environment where many rapidly changing biotic and abiotic factors affect the community structure and photosynthesis of the biofilms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Funders: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:39

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