The spectral characteristics of Lake Cowichan (Vancouver Island) were examined using a LiCor underwater spectroradiometer. The results were analyzed in terms of salmonid vision with special emphasis placed on the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. Irradiance measurements were taken by SCUBA divers every 3 m from 18m to the surface at each of seven locations. The measurements at each depth consisted of four scans from 300 to 850 nm of downwelling, upwelling and horizontal light in the sun and antisun directions. The study covered different times of day and variable atmospheric conditions. According to predictions from the absorptive properties of water molecules and scattering by these and suspended particulates, it was found that the ultraviolet part of the spectrum was the least transmitted. The light field varied in intensity and dominant wavelengths depending on direction and time of day. The relative proportion of ultraviolet, short and middle wavelengths with respect to the entire spectrum peaked during crepuscular periods; the opposite was true for long wavelengths. An analysis of the irradiance values with respect to salmonid vision showed that there was enough light to stimulate all the photoreceptor mechanisms found in juvenile salmonid retinae (sensitive to ultraviolet, short, middle and long wavelengths) at all depths studied. Nevertheless, 18 m was found to be the limiting depth for stimulation of the ultraviolet cone mechanism, which is required for perception of ultraviolet polarized light. This depth restriction may be linked to the observed salmonid movements close to the surface during crepuscular periods.

This content is only available via PDF.