Balancing the energy flow from captured light to biomass under fluctuating light conditions


Author for correspondence: T. Jakob Tel: +49 (0)341 9736873 Fax: +49 (0)341 9736899 Email:


  • • The balance of energy flow from light absorption into biomass was investigated under simulated natural light conditions in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum and the green alga Chlorella vulgaris.
  • • The energy balance was quantified by comparative analysis of carbon accumulation in the new biomass with photosynthetic electron transport rates per absorbed quantum, measured both by fluorescence quenching and oxygen production. The difference between fluorescence- and oxygen-based electron flow is defined as ‘alternative electron cycling’.
  • • The photosynthetic efficiency of biomass production was found to be identical for both algae under nonfluctuating light conditions. In a fluctuating light regime, a much higher conversion efficiency of photosynthetic energy into biomass was observed in the diatom compared with the green alga.
  • • The data clearly show that the diatom utilizes a different strategy in the dissipation of excessively absorbed energy compared with the green alga. Consequently, in a fluctuating light climate, the differences between green algae and diatoms in the efficiency of biomass production per photon absorbed are caused by the different amount of alternative electron cycling.