Recent declines in the foundation species Gelidium corneum (Hudson) J.V. Lamouroux in pristine coastal stretches of the Southeastern Bay of Biscay have been documented in which individuals showed a high bleaching incidence. Among the potential factorsthat may be responsible for these changes in G. corneum abundance, it has been suggested that high levels of irradiance may be imposing stressful environmental conditions for shallow populations. Given that light is reduced exponentially as depth increases, in this investigation we examined the influence of depth on the stress of G. corneum by comparing the performance of several biochemical parameters and thallus size in plants collected at three different depths. The results revealed that plants growing in shallow waters showed lower antioxidant activity, lower concentrations of photosynthetic pigments (Chl‐a, total carotenoids, phycoerythrin), lower internal nitrogen levels (higher C:N ratio) and shorter thallus lengths than those living in deeper waters. Some of these results may be an expression of photoacclimation, but the low antioxidant activity and total carotenoid concentration detected in plants living in shallow waters suggest that the photoprotective mechanisms of G. corneum may have failed to offset photodamage. If so, our findings support previous studies that suggest that recent changes in solar radiation are partially responsible for G. corneum declines. Nevertheless, given that the metabolic performance of macroalgae is determined by the inter‐play of irradiance with other factors, including temperature and nutrient availability, further research is needed to reach a better understanding of the factors causing stress in G. corneum.
Marine Ecology – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ;
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