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Keywords:

  • acclimation;
  • blue-green alga;
  • carotenoids;
  • chlorophyll;
  • photosynthesis;
  • UV-B radiation

The mat-forming cyanobacterium Phormidium murrayi West and West isolated from a meltwater pond on the McMurdo Ice Shelf was grown in unialgal batch cultures to evaluate the temperature dependence of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) effects on pigment composition, growth rate, and photosynthetic characteristics. Chlorophyll a concentrations per unit biomass were generally reduced in cells grown under UVR (low UV-A plus UV-B). In vivo absorbance spectra showed that the carotenoid/chlorophyll a ratio increased as a function of photosynthetically available radiation (PAR) and UVR exposure and varied inversely with temperature. Ultraviolet inhibition of growth (percentage reduction of μmax at each temperature) increased linearly with decreasing temperature, consistent with the hypothesis that net inhibition represents the balance between temperature-independent photochemical damage and temperature-dependent biosynthetic repair. There was no significant effect of UVR on photosynthesis over the first hour of exposure, but significant UV inhibition was observed after 5 days. Unlike growth, however, there was no apparent effect of temperature on the magnitude of UV inhibition of photosynthesis. These results imply that assays of UVR effects on photosynthesis are not an accurate guide to growth responses and that low ambient temperatures can have a major influence on the UV sensitivity of polar organisms. In a set of assays at 20° C (preacclimation under 300 μmol photons·m−2·s−1 and 20° C), growth was strongly depressed by UVR over the first day of exposure but then gradually increased over the subsequent 4 days, approaching the growth rates in the minus UVR control. This evidence of acquired tolerance indicates that the damaging effects of UVR will be most severe in environments where there is a mismatch between the timescale of change in exposure and the timescale of UV acclimation.