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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00472

Optical properties of living corals determined with diffuse reflectance spectroscopy

  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University, United States
  • 2University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 3Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The internal light field and thus light exposure of the photosymbiotic microalgae (Symbiodinium sp.) in corals is strongly modulated by the optical properties of coral tissue and skeleton. While there are numerous studies documenting the light microenvironment in corals, there are only few measurements of the inherent optical properties of corals in the literature, and this has hampered a more quantitative understanding of coral optics. Here we present a study of the optical properties of 26 live coral samples, representative of 11 coral species and spanning a variety of morphotypes. We employed well-established fiber-optic reflectance spectroscopy techniques from biomedical optics using two methods: (1) A source and a detection fiber separated by a variable distance measured the lateral spread of light in corals, dominated by the skeleton; (2) A fiber-optic field radiance probe measured the diffuse reflectance from the coral surface, dominated by the living coral tissue. Analysis based on diffusion theory and Monte Carlo simulation yielded estimates of the bulk scattering and absorption coefficients of the coral tissue and skeleton, in the 750-1030 nm wavelength range. Extrapolating into the spectral region of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR, 400-700 nm) allowed estimation of the optical depth of absorption by the main Symbiodinium photopigment chlorophyll a. Coral tissue scattering was on average ~1.9x stronger than the scattering of the skeleton, consistent with the model that corals trap photons by high scattering to enhance absorption by algal pigments, while the lower scattering of the skeleton allows spread of light to otherwise shaded coral tissue areas.

Keywords: coral optics, Photobiology, Light scattering, Coral-algal symbiosis, light harvesting, Monte Carlo (MC)

Received: 10 Sep 2018; Accepted: 12 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Oren Levy, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Reviewed by:

Nadav Shashar, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
David F. Gruber, Baruch College (CUNY), United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Jacques, Wangpraseurt and Kühl. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Daniel Wangpraseurt, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom,