High solar radiation along with extreme transparency leads to high penetration of solar radiation in the Red Sea, potentially harmful to biota inhabiting the upper water column, including zooplankton. Here we show, based on experimental assessments of solar radiation dose-mortality curves on eight common taxa, the mortality of zooplankton in the oligotrophic waters of the Red Sea to increase steeply with ambient levels of solar radiation in the Red Sea. Responses curves linking solar radiation doses with zooplankton mortality were evaluated by exposing organisms, enclosed in quartz bottles, allowing all the wavelengths of solar radiation to penetrate, to five different levels of ambient solar radiation (100%, 21.6%, 7.2%, 3.2% and 0% of solar radiation). The maximum mortality rates under ambient solar radiation levels averaged (±standard error of the mean, SEM) 18.4±5.8% h-1, five-fold greater than the average mortality in the dark for the eight taxa tested. The UV-B radiation required for mortality rates to reach 1/2 of maximum values averaged (±SEM) 12±5.6 h-1% of incident UVB radiation, equivalent to the UV-B dose at 19.2±2.7 m depth in open coastal Red Sea waters. These results confirm that Red Sea zooplankton are highly vulnerable to ambient solar radiation, as a consequence of the combination of high incident radiation and high water transparency allowing deep penetration of damaging UV-B radiation. These results provide evidence of the significance of ambient solar radiation levels as a stressor of marine zooplankton communities in tropical, oligotrophic waters. Because the oligotrophic ocean extends across 70% of the ocean surface, solar radiation can be a globally-significant stressor for the ocean ecosystem, by constraining zooplankton use of the upper levels of the water column and, therefore, the efficiency of food transfer up the food web in the oligotrophic ocean.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)