Corals as light collectors: an integrating sphere approach

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An integrating sphere was used to estimate the fraction of the incident quantum flux absorbed by a coral colony placed within it. This method allows one to examine the in vivo light absorption of intact coral colonies. We used this method to study effects of colony morphology, size, and photoacclimation status on the light harvesting efficiency by the zooxanthellae. Light absorption per unit of coral surface area decreased with increase in colony size, with a clear effect of different coral morphologies. In branched colonies, shading among branches reduced the absorbed light per unit area and per zooxanthellae. Photoacclimation to low light resulted in increased cellular chlorophyll concentrations in the zooxanthellae. In shade acclimated colonies, areal chlorophyll concentrations increased significantly, leading to more overlap among the optical cross-sections of pigments within cells and mutual shading among cells. These package effects showed up as a decrease in the in vivo, chlorophyll-a specific, spectral average, effective optical cross-section, a*. An integrating sphere is a useful tool for collecting optical information on corals.

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