Potential effects of UV-B on the chemical environment of marine organisms: A review

Brian Palenik, Neil M. Price, Francois M. M. Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


An increase in ultraviolet-B (UV-B) due to depletion of stratospheric ozone may affect growth of marine phytoplankton by altering the chemistry of their environment. Production of bioactive free radicals, photodecomposition of organic matter, and availability of trace metals are likely to be altered by increased UV-B flux. Such changes to the chemical environment may be both deleterious and beneficial to marine phytoplankton. Extracellular free radicals such as OH, Br2-, and CO3- are predicted to have a negligible impact, but superoxide and its decomposition product hydrogen peroxide may react rapidly with cell surfaces and destroy membrane function and integrity. Increased UV-B will enhance the bioavailability of the redox active trace metals Fe and Cu. Thus, in the Fe-limited high latitude ocean, increased Fe availability may promote phytoplankton production, while in other parts of the ocean increased Cu availability may be toxic. Overall, the interdependent direct and indirect effects of UV-B on phytoplankton may compensate for each other and account for the ability of marine ecosystems to be subjected to widely variable UV-B flux without apparent damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-130
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology


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