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Modification of light utilization for skeletal growth by water flow in the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascicularis

Schutter, Miriam, Kranenbarg, Sander, Wijffels, René H., Verreth, Johan, Osinga, Ronald
Marine biology 2011 v.158 no.4 pp. 769-777
corals, light intensity, photosynthesis, surface area, water flow
In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the importance of water flow for skeletal growth (rate) becomes higher with increasing irradiance levels (i.e. a synergistic effect) and that such effect is mediated by a water flow modulated effect on net photosynthesis. Four series of nine nubbins of G. fascicularis were grown at either high (600 μE m−2 s−1) or intermediate (300 μE m−2 s−1) irradiance in combination with either high (15–25 cm s−1) or low (5–10 cm s−1) flow. Growth was measured as buoyant weight and surface area. Photosynthetic rates were measured at each coral’s specific experimental irradiance and flow speed. Additionally, the instantaneous effect of water flow on net photosynthetic rate was determined in short-term incubations in a respirometric flowcell. A significant interaction was found between irradiance and water flow for the increase in buoyant weight, the increase in surface area, and specific skeletal growth rate, indicating that flow velocity becomes more important for coral growth with increasing irradiance levels. Enhancement of coral growth with increasing water flow can be explained by increased net photosynthetic rates. Additionally, the need for costly photo-protective mechanisms at low flow regimes could explain the differences in growth with flow.