MEPS 263:29-42 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps263029

Safety factors and nutrient uptake by seaweeds

T. Alwyn V. Rees*

Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, PO Box 349, Warkworth, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: The differences in the kinetic characteristics of nutrient (nitrate, ammonium and phosphate) uptake by seaweeds are evaluated using published half-saturation constants (Km), maximum rates of uptake (Vmax) and calculated safety factors for nitrate, ammonium and phosphate uptake. The safety factor is the ratio of maximum nutrient uptake rate to uptake rate at maximum ambient concentration of nutrient and provides a simple estimate of the amount of surplus capacity of a nutrient uptake system. Frequency distributions of Km values for nitrate, ammonium and phosphate uptake show similar patterns, though values tend to be lower for phosphate uptake and greater for ammonium uptake. There is no relationship between the Km values for nitrate or ammonium uptake and seaweed surface area:volume ratio (SA:V). Frequency distributions of Vmax:Km values for nitrate, ammonium and phosphate uptake show similar patterns, but Vmax:Km values tend to be lower for phosphate uptake and greater for ammonium uptake. Moreover, rates of nitrate uptake (at 5 µM nitrate) are comparable to rates of ammonium uptake (at 1.5 µM ammonium) at any value of seaweed SA:V ratio, i.e. the efficiency of ammonium uptake is greater. For nitrate and phosphate uptake by seaweeds and ammonium uptake by phytoplankton values for safety factors are low. In contrast, values for ammonium uptake by seaweeds are high. It is suggested that the reason for the high surplus capacity for ammonium uptake in seaweeds is a combination of the size of the plant and the spatially and temporally variable concentration of ammonium in the seawater that surrounds these plants.


KEY WORDS: Seaweed · Nutrient uptake · Safety factor · Scaling · Surface area:volume ratio


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