Evidence for anoxygenic photosynthesis from the distribution of bacteriochlorophylls in the Black Sea. Academic Article uri icon


  • The contribution of anoxygenic photosynthesis to carbon cycling in the Black Sea, the world's largest body of anoxic marine water, has been vigorously investigated and debated for over four decades. Penetration of light into the sulphide-containing deep water may result in a zone of anaerobic primary production by photosynthetic bacteria. We report here the results of analyses of photosynthetic pigments in samples of suspended particulate matter collected from two stations in the western basin of the Black Sea. Our data demonstrate high concentrations of a bacterio-chlorophyll at the chemocline, and thus the potential for anoxygenic photosynthesis as a component of primary production in the carbon cycle of the Black Sea. More than 95% of the pigments in the bacteriochlorophyll-maximum are accounted for by a series of aromatic carotenoids and bacteriochlorophylls-e, including a previously unreported geranyl ester of 4-i-butyl bacteriochlorophyll-e. The distribution of pigments is characteristic of the obligate phototrophs Chlorobium phaeobacteroides and C. phaeovibriodes. Total depth-integrated bacteriochlorophyll at one station exceeded total chlorophyll-a in the overlying oxygenated portion of the euphotic zone. We suggest that anoxygenic photosynthesis is a relatively recent phenomenon in the Black Sea initiated by shallowing of the chemocline over the past decade and development of an anoxic layer devoid of O2 and H2S.

publication date

  • November 2, 1989