Solar light penetrates deep into the clear water of oligotrophic oceans and may have both beneficial and destructive effects on marine phytoplankton. In oligotrophic waters worldwide, phytoplankton communities consist mostly of ultraphytoplankton of the groups Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus, which differ in their optical properties and, therefore, are better suited for thriving in different niches along the natural vertical light gradient. In this article, we aim to draw the optical boundaries separating the two populations in order to get a better insight into the light-driven dynamics in ultraphytoplankton-community structure and to predict future trends. We report spectral, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and ultraviolet radiation (UVR) penetration through the stratified season along with temporal and vertical distributions of Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus in the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba). These light-field parameters are used to define the apparent limits of the vertical distribution of Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus throughout the water column. Furthermore, we formulate the necessary empirical algorithms, allowing for characterization of the optical habitats defined in this study by remote-sensed or in situ radiometric measurements.
ASJC Scopus subject areas