The selective advantage of buoyancy provided by gas vesicles for planktonic cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea


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Observations were made on the vertical distribution of colonies of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae for 9 d at a drift-station east of Bornholm Island in the Baltic Sea. The buoyant colonies were dispersed in the upper layers of the water column during periods of wind-induced mixing but floated up during calm periods. From measurements of the vertical light extinction, surface irradiance and the photosynthesis versus irradiance curve, calculations were made of the changes in the daily integral of photosynthesis with respect to time and depth throughout the water column. From these calculations it is demonstrated that net photosynthesis by the population of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae increased nearly threefold by floating up after a deep mixing event. It is estimated that, averaged over alternating periods of calm and mixing, the buoyancy provided by gas vesicles in this organism will result in a nearly twofold increase in photosynthesis. A quantitative analysis has been made of the relationship of the daily integral of photosynthesis by the Aphanizomenon population with the mean depth of the population in the water column and the daily insolation. The analysis shows that the integral decreases linearly with respect to mean depth.