Light attenuation and photosynthesis of aquatic plant communities

Krause-Jensen, Dorte, Kaj Sand-Jensen

Limnol. Oceanogr., 43(3), 1998, 396-407 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1998.43.3.0396

ABSTRACT: We compiled 414 studies from the literature to test if general relationships exist between chlorophyll concentration, light attenuation, and gross photosynthesis across phytoplankton communities, macrophyte stands, and attached microalgal mats. We also evaluated the upper limit to photosynthesis in the various communities. Along with increasing chlorophyll concentration, the photic zone diminishes from >100 m in sparse phytoplankton communities to centimeters-meters in macrophyte stands to <l mm in dense microalgal mats. This compression of the photic zone is paralleled by a marked increase in volumetric photosynthesis (mmol O2 m-3 h-1). In contrast, integral photosynthesis (mmol O2 m-2 h-1) remains relatively constant, depending on both the photic zone and volumetric photosynthesis. A similar upper limit (~60 mmol mmol O2 m-2 h-1) is attained in dense macrophyte and phytoplankton communities when most of the irradiance is captured by plants. Integral photosynthesis, however, is often far below this upper limit because background light attenuation by particles and dissolved organic matter restrict photosynthesis in many aquatic plant communities. Moreover, limitation of CO2 and O2 exchange may constrain integral photosynthesis in dense plant communities, which are often subject to severe CO2 depletion and O2 supersaturation.

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