Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Diel and seasonal changes in fluorescence rise kinetics of three scleractinian corals

Ross Hill A and Peter J. Ralph A B

A Institute for Water and Environmental Resource Management and Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Westbourne Street, Gore Hill, NSW 2065, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 32(6) 549-559
Submitted: 21 January 2005  Accepted: 15 March 2005   Published: 15 June 2005


The effect of diel oscillations in light on the photosynthetic response of three coral species during summer and winter was studied. Fast induction curves revealed detailed information on primary photochemistry as well as redox states of electron acceptors in photosystem II (PSII). The comparison between seasons revealed that similar physiological mechanisms were operating in response to high-light conditions throughout the year and that environmental variables, such as temperature, had no measurable effect between seasons. A diurnal hysteresis was seen in both seasons in Fv / Fm as well as in the fast induction curves, where photosynthetic capacity was lower in the afternoon than in the morning when light intensities were the same. This suggests the operation of dynamic down regulation, following exposure to midday high light. Fast induction curve analysis revealed a decline in the O, J, I and P steps towards midday and a rapid recovery by the late afternoon. The decrease in J and its rapid recovery indicated a drop in the rate of QA reduction as a result of an increase in non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). The P step increased in amplitude in the first hours of sunlight, which suggests an increased oxidation of the plastoquinone (PQ) pool and a greater capacity for electron transport. Similarly, a rise in Fv / Fm was observed within the first hour of sunlight. This response was attributed to the dark reduction of the PQ pool, induced by night time anaerobic conditions and possibly oxygen-dependent chlororespiration, which would lead to a state 2 transition. The early morning removal of chlororespiration and hypoxic conditions would have returned the photosystems to state 1, resulting in the increased photochemical efficiency of the zooxanthellae.

Keywords: chlorophyll a fluorescence, coral bleaching, diurnal hysteresis, down regulation, non-photochemical quenching, OJIP, photosystem II.


We thank N Ralph for construction of the dark-adaptation chambers, C Macinnis-Ng for advice on statistical analyses and AWD Larkum for use of the PEA fluorometer, as well as editorial comments. This work was performed with the permission of GBRMPA (permit number G01 / 623) and the Queensland EPA (permit number WITK01520603). The Australian Research Council and the University of Technology, Sydney provided funding support for PJR. Institute for Water and Environmental Resource Management contribution number 206.


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