Underwater Optics in Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Coastal Ecosystems

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Understanding underwater optics in natural waters is essential in evaluating aquatic primary production and risk of UV exposure in aquatic habitats. Changing environmental conditions related with global climate change, which imply potential contrasting changes in underwater light climate further emphasize the need to gain insights into patterns related with underwater optics for more accurate future predictions. The present study evaluated penetration of solar radiation in six sub-Antarctic estuaries and fjords in Chilean North Patagonian region (39-44°S) and in an Antarctic bay (62°S). Based on vertical diffuse attenuation coefficients (Kd), derived from measurements with a submersible multichannel radiometer, average summer UV penetration depth (z1%) in these water bodies ranged 2-11 m for UV-B (313 nm), 4-27 m for UV-A (395 nm), and 7-30 m for PAR (euphotic zone). UV attenuation was strongest in the shallow Quempillén estuary, while Fildes Bay (Antarctica) exhibited the highest transparency. Optically non-homogeneous water layers and seasonal variation in transparency (lower in winter) characterized Comau Fjord and Puyuhuapi Channel. In general, multivariate analysis based on Kd values of UV and PAR wavelengths discriminated strongly Quempillén estuary and Puyuhuapi Channel from other study sites. Spatial (horizontal) variation within the estuary of Valdivia river reflected stronger attenuation in zones receiving river impact, while within Fildes Bay a lower spatial variation in water transparency could in general be related to closeness of glaciers, likely due to increased turbidity through ice-driven processes. Higher transparency and deeper UV-B penetration in proportion to UV-A/visible wavelengths observed in Fildes Bay suggests a higher risk for Antarctic ecosystems reflected by e.g. altered UV-B damage vs. photorepair under UV-A/PAR. Considering that damage repair processes often slow down under cool temperatures, adverse UV impact could be further exacerbated by cold temperatures in this location, together with episodes of ozone depletion. Overall, the results emphasize the marked spatial (horizontal and vertical) and temporal heterogeneity of optical characteristics, and challenges that these imply for estimations of underwater optics.




Huovinen, P., Ramírez, J., & Gómez, I. (2016). Underwater Optics in Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Coastal Ecosystems. PloS One, 11(5), e0154887. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154887

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