Growth and physiological responses of three seagrass species to elevated sediment nutrients in Moreton Bay, Australia
Seagrasses, marine angiosperms with high rates of primary productivity, are often limited by the supply of nutrients, particularly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). We investigated growth and physiological responses of three seagrass species (Halodule uninervis (Forsk.), Zostera capricorni Aschers and Cymodocea serrulata (r.Br.) Aschers) to elevated sediment N (100X control) and/or P (10x control) in adjacent monospecific beds over a 3 month period from spring to early summer. Each species exhibited different growth and biomass responses to both N and P additions. Halodule uninervis growth and biomass increased in response to N and N + P additions, indicative of exclusive N limitation of growth. In contrast, growth and biomass of Z. capricorni increased in response to N + P additions only, indicative of balanced N and P limitation. Cymodocea serrulata growth and biomass were not affected by any of the nutrient additions. Physiological characteristics (amino acid composition, tissue nutrient content, delta N-15) of all three seagrass species responded to N additions (+ N and N + P). Total amino acid content of seagrass leaves increased by 2 to 4 fold in N additions compared with controls. Concentrations of the N-rich amino acids, glutamine and asparagine, increased by 10-1000 fold in N additions, suggesting that these amino acids may be a metabolic storage for N. Tissue N content of leaves, roots and rhizomes increased and delta N-15 of the leaves decreased in response to N additions. Although seagrass growth and biomass responses to nutrient additions were species specific, metabolic responses were similar for all species. This suggests physiological characteristics of seagrasses are useful for identifying saturating nutrient supply to an environment, but should not be used to determine whether nutrient availability is limiting the seagrass growth rate. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.
Keywords: seagrass, nutrient, nitrogen, phosphorus, amino acid, zostera-marina l, halodule-wrightii aschers, phosphorus limitation, , syringodium-filiforme, thalassia-testudinum, cymodocea-nodosa, , light-intensity, chesapeake bay, florida bay, l eelgrass