Imaging pulse amplitude modulated (Imaging-PAM) fluorometry is a breakthrough in the study of spatial heterogeneity of photosynthetic assemblages. However, Imaging and conventional PAM uses a different technology, making comparisons between these techniques doubtful. Thereby, photosynthetic processes were comparatively assessed using conventional (Junior PAM and PAM 101) and Imaging-PAM on intertidal microphytobenthos (MPB; mud and sand) and on cork oak leaves. Lower values of α (initial slope of the rETR, relative photosynthetic electron transport rate) vs E (incident photosynthetic active radiation) curve), ETRmax (maximum relative ETR), Ek (light saturation parameter) and Fv/Fm (maximum quantum efficiency of photosystem II of dark-adapted samples) were obtained using the Imaging-PAM. The level of discrepancy between conventional and Imaging-PAM systems was dependent on the type of sample, being more pronounced for MPB muddy sediments. This may be explained by differences in the depth integration of the fluorescence signal related to the thickness of the photosynthetic layer and in the light attenuation coefficients of downwelling irradiance. An additional relevant parameter is the taxonomic composition of the MPB, as cyanobacteria present in sandy sediments rendered different results with red and blue excitation light fluorometers. These findings emphasize the caution needed when interpreting chlorophyll fluorescence data of MPB communities.
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