Articles | Volume 13, issue 16
Biogeosciences, 13, 4637–4643, 2016
Biogeosciences, 13, 4637–4643, 2016

Research article 18 Aug 2016

Research article | 18 Aug 2016

The role of coccoliths in protecting Emiliania huxleyi against stressful light and UV radiation

Juntian Xu1,2, Lennart T. Bach3, Kai G. Schulz3, Wenyan Zhao1, Kunshan Gao1, and Ulf Riebesell3 Juntian Xu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, 361102 China
  • 2Key Laboratory of Marine Biotechnology of Jiangsu Province, Huaihai Institute of Technology, Lianyungang, Jiangsu, 222005 China
  • 3GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, Kiel, 24105 Germany

Abstract. Coccolithophores are a group of phytoplankton species which cover themselves with small scales (coccoliths) made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The reason why coccolithophores form these calcite platelets has been a matter of debate for decades but has remained elusive so far. One hypothesis is that they play a role in light or UV protection, especially in surface dwelling species like Emiliania huxleyi, which can tolerate exceptionally high levels of solar radiation. In this study, we tested this hypothesis by culturing a calcified and a naked strain under different light conditions with and without UV radiation. The coccoliths of E. huxleyi reduced the transmission of visible radiation (400–700 nm) by 7.5 %, that of UV-A (315–400 nm) by 14.1 % and that of UV-B (280–315 nm) by 18.4 %. Growth rates of the calcified strain (PML B92/11) were about 2 times higher than those of the naked strain (CCMP 2090) under indoor constant light levels in the absence of UV radiation. When exposed to outdoor conditions (fluctuating sunlight with UV radiation), growth rates of calcified cells were almost 3.5 times higher compared to naked cells. Furthermore, the relative electron transport rate was 114 % higher and non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) was 281 % higher in the calcified compared to the naked strain, implying higher energy transfer associated with higher NPQ in the presence of calcification. When exposed to natural solar radiation including UV radiation, the maximal quantum yield of photosystem II was only slightly reduced in the calcified strain but strongly reduced in the naked strain. Our results reveal an important role of coccoliths in mitigating light and UV stress in E. huxleyi.

Final-revised paper