MEPS 223:157-165 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps223157

Measurement of seagrass production using the 13C stable isotope compared with classical O2 and 14C methods

Miguel A. Mateo*, Pere Renom, Marten A. Hemminga, Jan Peene

Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Centre for Estuarine and Coastal Ecology, Korringaweg 7, 4401 NT Yerseke, The Netherlands
*Present address: Departament d¹Ecologia, Universitat de \!f\!fBarcelona. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain \!f\!fE-mail:

ABSTRACT: The methods currently employed for seagrass production estimates include biomass, marking and metabolic techniques, the latter including the O2 and 14C methods. Both are currently in general use and have generated a great deal of seagrass-production data. In this work, we measured carbon incorporation rates in Zostera marina L. using the stable carbon isotope 13C as a metabolic tracer. We tried this method in an attempt to overcome the 2 major methodological problems of the O2 and 14C methods, i.e. the limitations when measuring low production rates and the hazardous and laborious handling of radioactive isotopes, respectively. To validate the 13C method we compared it with the classical O2 and 14C methods in microcosm experiments. The 2 carbon-tracer techniques were in overall good agreement (13C = 0.12 + 1.03 x 14C; R2 = 0.964, p < 0.001, n = 10). Production rates derived from the 13C method were on average 1.34 ± 0.03 (n = 42) times higher than those obtained with the O2 method (13C = 0.99 + 1.15 x O2; R2 = 0.788, p < 0.001, n = 42), suggesting that for short incubation lengths (in this study between 0.5 and 4.0 h) the 13C method provides estimates very close to gross production. The pros and cons of all 3 methods are critically discussed.


KEY WORDS: Seagrass production · Zostera marina · Stable carbon isotopes · O2 method · 14C method · 13C method


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