Diel patterns of microphytobenthic primary production in intertidal sediments: the role of photoperiod on the vertical migration circadian rhythm
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SourceScientific Reports - (2019) 9:13376
Diel primary production patterns of intertidal microphytobenthos (MPB) have been attributed to short-term physiological changes in the photosynthetic apparatus or to diel changes in the photoautotrophic biomass in the sediment photic layer due to vertical migration. Diel changes in primary production and vertical migration are entrained by external factors like photoperiod and tides. However, the role of photoperiod and tides has not been experimentally separated to date. Here, we performed laboratory experiments with sediment cores kept in immersion, in the absence of tides, with photoperiod or under continuous light. Measurements of net production, made with O-2 microsensors, and of spectral reflectance at the sediment surface showed that, in intertidal sediments, the photoperiod signal was the major driver of the diel patterns of net primary production and sediment oxygen availability through the vertical migration of the MPB photoautotrophic biomass. Vertical migration was controlled by an endogenous circadian rhythm entrained by photoperiod in the absence of tides. The pattern progressively disappeared after 3 days in continuous light but was immediately reset by photoperiod. Even though a potential contribution of a subjective in situ tidal signal cannot be completely discarded, Fourier and cross spectral analysis of temporal patterns indicated that the photosynthetic circadian rhythm was mainly characterized by light/dark migratory cycles.