Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) are the most ubiquitous gel particles in the ocean and form abiotically from dissolved precursors. Although these particles can accumulate at the ocean surface, being thus exposed to intense sunlight, the role of solar radiation for the assembly and degradation of TEP is unknown. In this study, we experimentally determined the effects of visible and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on (1) TEP degradation (photolysis experiments), (2) TEP assembly from dissolved polymers (photoinhibition experiments) and (3) TEP release by microorganisms. Solar radiation, particularly in the UVB range, caused significant TEP photolysis, with loss rates from 27 to 34% per day. Dissolved polysaccharides did not increase in parallel. No TEP were formed under UVB, visible or dark conditions, indicating that light does not promote TEP assembly. UVB radiation enhanced TEP release by microorganisms, possibly due to cell deaths, or as a protective measure. Increases in UVB may lead to enhanced TEP photolysis in the ocean, with further consequences for TEP dynamics and, ultimately, sea-air gas exchange.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes