MEPS 368:117-126 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07564

Macroalgal responses to experimental nutrient enrichment in shallow coastal waters: growth, internal nutrient pools, and isotopic signatures

Mirta Teichberg1,2,*, Sophia E. Fox3, Carolina Aguila1, Ylva S. Olsen3, Ivan Valiela3

1Boston University Marine Program, Marine Biological Laboratory, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
2Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, Fahrenheitstrasse 6, 28359 Bremen, Germany
3The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Increased nutrient inputs to temperate coastal waters have led to increased occurrences of macroalgal blooms worldwide. To identify nutrients that are limiting to macroalgae and to determine whether different forms of these nutrients and long-term ambient nutrient conditions affect macroalgal response, we used in situ enrichment methods and tested the response of 2 bloom-forming species of macroalgae, Ulva lactuca and Gracilaria tikvahiae, from shallow estuaries of Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts, USA, that receive different land-derived N inputs. We enriched caged macroalgal fronds with nitrate, ammonium, phosphate, and N + P combinations, and measured growth, nutrient content, and δ15N signatures of fronds after 2 wk of incubation. In these estuaries, P did not limit growth, however, the 2 species differed in growth response to N additions. Growth of U. lactuca was greater in Childs River (CR), the estuary with higher nitrate inputs, than in Sage Lot Pond (SLP); growth in SLP increased with nitrate and ammonium enrichment. In contrast, growth of G. tikvahiae was greater in SLP than in CR, but had no growth response to N enrichment in either site. C and N contents differed initially between species and sites, and after nutrient enrichment. Final tissue % N increased and C:N decreased after nitrate and ammonium enrichment. δ15N values of the macroalgae demonstrated uptake of the experimental fertilizers, and a higher affinity and faster turnover of internal N pools with ammonium than nitrate enrichment in both species. We suggest that U. lactuca blooms in areas with both high nitrate and ammonium water column concentrations, and is more N-limited in oligotrophic waters where DIN levels are too low to sustain high growth rates. G. tikvahiae has a greater N storage capacity than U. lactuca, which may allow it to grow in less nutrient-rich waters.


KEY WORDS: Macroalgal blooms · Eutrophication · Nutrient limitation · N uptake · Assimilation · Ulva spp. · Gracilaria spp. · Nitrate · Ammonium · Phosphate


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Cite this article as: Teichberg M, Fox SE, Aguila C, Olsen YS, Valiela I (2008) Macroalgal responses to experimental nutrient enrichment in shallow coastal waters: growth, internal nutrient pools, and isotopic signatures. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 368:117-126

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