Susceptibility of zoospores to UV radiation determines upper depth distribution limit of Arctic kelps: evidence through field experiments


Christian Wiencke (fax +49 471 48311425; e-mail


  • 1The UV susceptibility of zoospores of the brown seaweeds Saccorhiza dermatodea, Alaria esculenta and Laminaria digitata (Laminariales) was determined in field experiments in June 2004 on Spitsbergen (78°55′ N, 11°56′ E).
  • 2Freshly released zoospores were exposed for 1 or 2 days at various water depths to ambient solar radiation, ambient solar radiation depleted of UVB radiation (UVBR) and ambient solar radiation depleted of both UVBR and UVAR. Subsequently, germination rates were determined after exposure to favourable light and temperature conditions in the laboratory.
  • 3The radiation regime was monitored at the water surface and in the water column using data loggers attached adjacent to each experimental platform for the duration of the field exposure.
  • 4Under ambient solar radiation, the tolerance of zoospores to UVR was highest in the shallow water species S. dermatodea, intermediate in the upper to mid sublittoral A. esculenta and lowest in the upper to mid sublittoral L. digitata. There was, however, no difference in the susceptibility of the zoospores to ambient solar radiation or to solar radiation depleted of UVBR.
  • 5The water column was relatively UV transparent, especially in the upper water layers. The 1% UVB depth ranged between 5.35 and 6.87 m, although on one stormy day the 1% UVB depth was only 3.57 m, indicating resuspension of sediments.
  • 6Early developmental stages are most susceptible to environmental stress. Tolerance of zoospores to UVR is a major if not one of the most important factors determining the upper distribution limit of different Laminariales on the shore.
  • 7Kelps are very important primary producers in inshore coastal ecosystems, serving as food for herbivores and as habitat for many organisms. Enhanced UVBR due to stratospheric ozone depletion may lead to changes in the depth distribution of kelps and may cause significant ecological domino effects.