Red coralline algae are the deepest living macroalgae, capable of creating spatially complex reefs from the intertidal to 100+m depth with global ecological and biogeochemical significance. How these algae maintain photosynthetic function under increasingly limiting light intensity and spectral availability is key to explaining their large depth distribution. Here, we investigated the photo- and chromatic acclimation and morphological change of free-living red coralline algae towards mesophotic depths in the Fernando do Noronha archipelago, Brazil. From 13 to 86 m depth, thalli tended to become smaller and less complex. We observed a dominance of the photoacclimatory response, characterized by an increase in photosynthetic efficiency and a decrease in maximum electron transport rate. Chromatic acclimation was generally stable across the euphotic-mesophotic transition with no clear depth trend. Taxonomic comparisons suggest these photosynthetic strategies are conserved to at least the Order level. Light saturation necessitated the use of photoprotection to 65 m depth, while optimal light levels were met at 86 m. Changes to the light environment (e.g. reduced water clarity) due to human activities therefore places these mesophotic algae at risk of light limitation, necessitating the importance of maintaining good water quality for the conservation and protection of mesophotic habitats.
Algae (Macro, Turf and Crustose Coralline)
Brazil - Fernando Noronha