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One of the major features of the coastal zone is that part of its sea floor receives a significant amount of sunlight and can therefore sustain benthic primary production by seagrasses, macroalgae, microphytobenthos and corals. However, the contribution of benthic communities to the primary production of the global coastal ocean is not known, partly because the surface area where benthic primary production can proceed is poorly quantified. Here, we use a new analysis of satellite (SeaWiFS) data collected between 1998 and 2003 to estimate, for the first time at a nearly global scale, the irradiance reaching the bottom of the coastal ocean. The following cumulative functions provide the percentage of the surface (S) of the coastal zone receiving an irradiance greater than Ez (in mol photons m−2 d−1): SNon-polar = 29.61 − 17.92 log10(Ez) + 0.72 log102(Ez) + 0.90 log103(Ez) SArctic = 15.99 − 13.56 log10(Ez) + 1.49 log102(Ez) + 0.70 log103(Ez) Data on the constraint of light availability on the major benthic primary producers and net community production are reviewed. Some photosynthetic organisms can grow deeper than the nominal bottom limit of the coastal ocean (200 m). The minimum irradiance required varies from 0.4 to 5.1 mol photons m−2 d−1 depending on the group considered. The daily compensation irradiance of benthic communities ranges from 0.24 to 4.4 mol photons m−2 d−1. Data on benthic irradiance and light requirements are c
Original languageEnglish
Journal publication date2006

ID: 39611