The effect of variations in irradiance on buoyancy regulation in Microcystis aeruginosa

Wallace, Brett B., David P. Hamilton

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(2), 1999, 273-281 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.2.0273

ABSTRACT: A mechanism of buoyancy regulation in cyanobacteria was investigated in a fluctuating light environment typical of the mixed layer in a lake. New measurements of density and cellular carbohydrate content were obtained from a field sample of the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa. The rate of increase in carbohydrate and density in this cyanobacterium does not instantaneously adjust to an increase in light intensity. There is a time lag, the response time, corresponding to physiological adjustment to the increase in light, before equilibration of the rate of carbohydrate and density increase. Also, the rate of density and carbohydrate increase is nonlinear over the response time. Based on these experimental findings, a new model for buoyancy regulation was developed that includes the response time. This model was applied to two fluctuating light regimes that simulate Langmuir circulation and turbulence. The simulations reveal that the response time is critical in determining if a cell equilibrates its rate of density change to a change in the light that it receives. If the response time is longer than the time scale of the light fluctuation, then the rate of density increase will be less than the optimal equilibrium rate. Models that do not include the response time will not correctly predict the buoyancy of cyanobacteria and their water column position after an episode of mixing.

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