How Sunlight and Temperature Affect the Growth of Medicinal Red Seaweed

Greg Howard
12th May, 2024

How Sunlight and Temperature Affect the Growth of Medicinal Red Seaweed

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Kagoshima, Japan, the red alga Chondria armata grows larger in December and shrinks in spring
  • The alga's photosynthesis peaks at low light intensity and withstands strong light well
  • Its photosynthesis is optimal at around 30°C and declines outside the 20°C to 36°C range
In the coastal waters of Kagoshima, Japan, the red alga Chondria armata thrives, playing a crucial role in marine ecosystems and possessing compounds with significant antimicrobial properties[2]. Researchers from Kagoshima University have recently taken a closer look at this important species to understand how it adapts to seasonal changes and varying environmental conditions[1]. Chondria armata is not just any seaweed; it's a source of potent compounds, including domoic acid, a neurotoxin linked to amnesic shellfish poisoning[3][4]. Understanding the growth and health of this alga is vital, not only for ecological reasons but also for monitoring substances that could impact human health. The study by Kagoshima University observed the red alga throughout the year, noting that its size peaked in December and reached its lowest in the spring months of April and May. This seasonal pattern is essential for local marine life and fisheries that rely on the alga as a habitat or food source. The team used dissolved oxygen sensors and a PAM-chlorophyll fluorometer to measure the alga's photosynthetic response to light and temperature. Photosynthesis in plants and algae is the process by which light energy is converted into chemical energy, fueling the organism's growth. The researchers found that the alga's photosynthesis quickly reached its maximum rate at a relatively low light intensity and showed resilience to strong light, with minimal inhibition even at high intensities. Temperature, however, had a more pronounced effect. The alga's photosynthesis peaked at around 30.1°C and declined rapidly outside the 20°C to 36°C range. The effective quantum yield, a measure of the efficiency of the photosynthetic process, remained stable between 16°C and 32°C but fell outside this range, indicating that extreme temperatures could hinder the alga's ability to harness light for energy. When subjected to a combination of high light intensity and varying temperatures, the alga showed signs of stress, particularly at the lower temperature of 16°C. While it could recover from high light exposure at warmer temperatures, it struggled to do so in cooler conditions, suggesting that the alga is sensitive to low-temperature light stress. These findings are significant because they reveal the adaptability of Chondria armata to its environment, particularly in Kagoshima, which is near its northern distributional limit in the western Pacific. The study suggests that while the alga is well-suited to the light and temperature conditions of its habitat, it is vulnerable to the colder temperatures of winter. This vulnerability could have implications for its survival and distribution, especially if winter temperatures continue to fluctuate. Previous studies have shown that Chondria armata contains various glycolipids with antimicrobial properties against pathogens such as Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans[2]. Furthermore, the alga has been identified as a producer of domoic acid, a substance that can accumulate in marine life and cause health issues in humans if ingested[3][4]. The biosynthesis of domoic acid involves a complex pathway that has been partially unraveled in both diatoms and red macroalgae[4][5]. The current research builds upon these earlier findings by providing insight into how environmental factors affect the growth and potentially the production of bioactive compounds in Chondria armata. By understanding the conditions that maximize the health of this alga, researchers can better predict and manage its role in marine ecosystems and its implications for public health. In summary, the study from Kagoshima University has shed light on the resilience and vulnerabilities of Chondria armata, an alga of both ecological and biomedical interest. It highlights the need for further research to understand the interplay between environmental factors and the production of substances like domoic acid. As climate patterns shift, such knowledge will be crucial for safeguarding marine biodiversity and human health.

EcologyPlant ScienceMarine Biology


Main Study

1) Phenology and the response of photosynthesis to irradiance and temperature gradient in the herbal drug red alga, Chondria armata (Rhodomelaceae, Ceramiales) from Kagoshima, Japan

Published 9th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Glycolipids from the red alga Chondria armata (Kutz.) Okamura.

Journal: Glycobiology, Issue: Vol 16, Issue 10, Oct 2006

3) Production of domoic acid by laboratory culture of the red alga Chondria armata.

4) Six domoic acid related compounds from the red alga, Chondria armata, and domoic acid biosynthesis by the diatom, Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries.

5) Domoic acid biosynthesis in the red alga Chondria armata suggests a complex evolutionary history for toxin production.

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