Response of the tropical red seaweed Gracilaria cornea to temperature, salinity and irradiance

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The agarophyte Gracilaria cornea, collected over 2.5 y in the Florida Keys, shows adaptations to oceanic salinities and subtropical to tropical water temperatures in its photosynthetic and respiratory responses as measured with a respirometer. No seasonal pattern in responses to irradiance, temperature, and salinity were evident between five collections over a 20-month period, indicating the tropical nature of the populations from Bahia Honda and Pigeon Keys. Concentrations of chlorophyll a (0.09 to 0.41 mg g d wt-1) and phycoerythrin (0.06 to 0.36 mg g d wt- 1) were low and reflect the low nutrient regime of the habitats, especially when compared to laboratory cultured plants. Compensation and saturation irradiances were also low (11–38 and 90–127 μmol photon m-2 s-1), indicating acclimation to lower irradiances in their shallow (1–2 m depth) habitats where turbidity can be high. In comparison with other subtropical and warm temperate species of Gracilaria, G. cornea had lower levels of pigment, but similarly high photosynthetic efficiency, demonstrating shade adaptation; it had only limited tolerance to salinities below 20‰ and temperatures below 15 °C. Thus, G. cornea from the Florida Keys in mariculture would require subtropical to tropical temperatures and stable oceanic salinities.

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