Physiological Responses of Acropora cervicornis to Increased Solar Irradiance


  • This invited paper is part of the Symposium-in-Print: UV Effects in Aquatic and Terrestrial Environments.

Corresponding author e-mail:; (Juan L. Torres)


The effects of increased UV radiation (UV-B [280–320 nm] + UV-A [320–400 nm]; hereafter UVR) on the growth, production of photosynthetic pigments and photoprotective mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) were studied in the threatened Caribbean coral Acropora cervicornis transplanted from 20 to 1 m depth in La Parguera, Puerto Rico. The UVR exposure by the transplanted colonies was significantly higher than that at 20 m, while photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) only increased by 9%. Photosynthetic pigments, quantified with HPLC, as well as linear extension rates and skeletal densities, were significantly reduced 1 month after transplantation to 1 m depth, while MAAs increased significantly despite immediate paling experienced by transplanted colonies. While these colonies showed a significant reduction in photosynthetic pigments, there were no significant reductions in zooxanthellae densities suggesting photoacclimation of the coral’s symbionts to the new radiation conditions. The results suggest that while corals might be able to survive sudden increases in UVR and PAR, their skeletal structure can be greatly debilitated due to a reduction in the photosynthetic capacity of their symbionts and a possible relocation of resources.