Impacts of UV radiation on plankton community metabolism along the Humboldt Current System

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Godoy, N, Canepa, A, Lasternas, S, Mayol, E, Ruiz-Halpern, S, Agusti, S, Castilla, JC & Duarte, CM 2011, 'Impacts of UV radiation on plankton community metabolism along the Humboldt Current System', Biogeosciences Discuss., vol. 8, pp. 5827-5848.

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The Humbolt Current System along the Chilean coast is one of the most productive regions in the world, where UV levels are particularly high due to stratospheric ozone depletion. Research has shown that phytoplankton photosynthesis can be severely inhibited by surface radiation and there are concerns that this will reduce not only algal carbon fixation, but also the carbon supply for higher trophic level. Experimental estimates of community metabolism (NCP, GPP and R) and the impacts of UV on community metabolism were assessed at 8 stations along the meridional track by the Humbold-2009 cruise (54.80° S–23.85° S) on board RV Hespérides from 5 to 15 March 2009. The results showed an increase UVB penetration towards the Equator, along the Humboldt Current System, suggesting a more important impact of UVB radiation towards the north. The metabolic rates observed were within average values reported for the Ocean Pacific and did not show the water mass investigated to be exceptionally productive at the time of the study. Experimental evaluation of the effect of UVB radiation on surface waters, those most strongly affected by UVB, showed that UVB radiation suppressed net community production, resulting in a dominance of heterotrophic communities in surface waters, compared to the prevalence of autotrophic communities inferred when materials, excluding UVB radiation, are used for incubation. These results show that UVB radiation, which has increased greatly in the study area, may have suppressed net community production of the plankton communities, possibly driving plankton communities in the Southwest Pacific towards CO2 sources.

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