Light absorption by marine macrophytes

Susana Enríquez*, Susana Agusti, Carlos Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Tissues of 338 marine macrophytes comprising 103 species, collected from the Atlantic, Mediterranean, South China, and Caribbean Seas, and encompassing a broad range in thallus form and pigmentation, were examined to quantify the importance of phylogenetic differences, spectral variability, and plant form and pigment content to account for differences in the absorption of light by marine macrophytes. Phylogenetic differences accounted for 2.5% of the variance in absorption observed, non-phylogenetic spectral differences being much larger (26%). Differences among individual specimens were much larger (72%), absorption at 675 nm increasing non-linearly as chlorophyll a density1/2, indicating that light absorption increases with increasing chlorophyll a density following a law of diminishing returns, as predicted by theory. The energy return per unit tissue produced (i.e. light absorption per unit plant weight) increased linearly with increasing chlorophyll a concentration. However, the light absorbed per unit weight decreased, for a given chlorophyll a concentration, as plant thickness increased. This indicates that while increasing thickness may increase chlorphyll a density and, hence, the light absorbed by marine macrophyte thalli, this strategy represents a burden limiting potential carbon turnover and plant growth. These results indicate that the diverse repertoire of light absorption by marine macrophytes can be adequately modeled as a continuum, dependent on plant thickness and pigment content, independent of phylogenetic differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-129
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 1994


  • Chlorophyll a
  • Light absorption
  • Marine macrophytes
  • Tissue thickness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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