MEPS 211:105-116 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps211105

Annual metabolic carbon balance of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica: the importance of carbohydrate reserves

Teresa Alcoverro*, Marta Manzanera, Javier Romero

Departament d¹Ecologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avgda. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
*Present address: Centre d¹Estudis Avançats de Blanes, CSIC, Camí de Santa Bàrbara s/n, 17300 Blanes, Girona, Spain. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: We present the seasonal carbon (C) balance of the Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile calculated from seasonal rates of C gain (photosynthesis), C loss (respiration) and growth. We compare our balance with the evolution of seasonal C reserves in order to determine the parameters (shoot:root biomass, reserve allocation, photosynthetic parameters, etc.) that influence the seasonal cycle of the plant. Additionally, we examine whether the annual C balance can be used as a valid tool for testing the vulnerability of seagrasses to light reduction. The seasonal whole-plant C balance showed alternate negative (from September to June) and positive (July and August) values. This trend was the result of the interplay among several seasonal factors such as irradiance, water turbidity, photosynthetic parameters, respiratory rates, shoot growth, within-shoot age distribution, and principally, the low photosynthetic:non-photosynthetic biomass ratio. The lack of significant correlation between seasonal growth and metabolic balance (C gain - C demand) did not permit the prediction of plant growth. Conversely, the seasonal pattern of carbon storage was consistent with the periods of positive and negative C balance. Consequently, reserve mobilization allows overwintering and re-growth under conditions of negative C balance. Using different calculations the annual C balance was found to be negative during 1993; this is in accordance with the carbohydrate interannual depletion and the shoot density decline. Since Posidonia oceanica is regressing in the Mediterranean, our carbon budget may notably contribute to future carbon models that can be essential tools for defining the minimum light requirements for survival. More insight into the functioning of some of the parameters that definitively influence this carbon budget (e.g.: the rhizome/root oxygen consumption and the O2 to C conversion) is needed to fully understand the vulnerability of seagrasses to light reduction.


KEY WORDS: Mediterranean sea · Photosynthesis · Respiration · Irradiance · Starch · Sucrose


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