Photoacclimation processes are crucial for the survival of all photosynthetic organisms in the photic zone. Changes in photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) are however simultaneous to changes in UV-B radiation. The influence of UV-B levels on bio-optical and physiological parameters of deep (30 m) corals from the species Stylophora pistillata and their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, was examinedduring their gradual, stepwise acclimation to a shallow depth (3 m). Drastic exposure of deeper corals to higher UV-B levels in shallower depths is usually fatal. Hence, the acclimation process lasted 118 days and included 10 intermediate stations with an addition of similar amount of PAR at each depth transfer. Concomitantly, in an on-shore experiment, fragments from the same colonies were acclimated by changing shading nets corresponding in PAR levels to each in situ station. Since UV-B is attenuated more efficiently than PAR in seawater, the PAR: UV-B ratio changes in the depth experiment while remaining constant under the neutral density nets. This provided the opportunity to evaluate the importance of UV-B to photoacclimation. In both experiments all fragments survived, in spite of a four-fold difference in levels of PAR and a 140-fold difference in UV-B flux between the initial and final conditions. Both experimental designs resulted in reduction of zooxanthellae density, photosynthesis rates, and quantum yields of PSII, while cellular chlorophyll content remained unaffected. Zooxanthellae density and maximal photosynthetic rate was found decreased in correlation with UV-B radiation, whether it was elevated logarithmically with reducing depths or linearly with reducing shades. Conversely, quantum yields of PSII were adjusted according to the enhancement of PAR rather than UV-B. We conclude that UV-B enhances the magnitude of photoacclimation to higher PAR. This novel aspect of photoacclimation can provide the basis for our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that result in UV-related bleaching.
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