MEPS 478:87-100 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10183

Dissolved organic matter uptake in a temperate seagrass ecosystem

Tom Van Engeland1,*, Tjeerd J. Bouma1, Edward P. Morris2, Fernando G. Brun2, Gloria Peralta2, Miguel Lara2, Iris E. Hendriks3, Pieter van Rijswijk1, Bart Veuger1, Karline Soetaert1, Jack J. Middelburg1,4

1Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ-Yerseke), 4401NT Yerseke, The Netherlands
2Department of Biology (Area of Ecology), Faculty of Environmental and Marine Science, University of Cadiz,
11510 Puerto Real, Cadiz, Spain
3Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA), 07190 Esporles, Mallorca, Spain
4Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: We assessed the utilization of inorganic and organic nitrogen compounds of different complexity by primary producers and bacteria in a seagrass ecosystem. Using double-labeled (13C and 15N) substrates, the net transfers from the dissolved nitrogen and carbon pools to phytoplankton, planktonic bacteria, epiphytes, seagrasses (Zostera noltii and Cymodocea nodosa), and a macroalga (Caulerpa prolifera) were quantified in field incubations. Phytoplankton was the largest nitrogen sink, followed by the epiphytic community. In contrast, carbon fixation was dominated by the macrophytes. Although compartment-specific variations existed, NH4+ was generally preferred over NO3- and urea. Specific uptake rates of individual amino acids were inversely related to their C:N ratio and their structural complexity (glycine > L-leucine > L-phenylalanine). In addition, biomarker-specific measurements (polar lipid-derived fatty acids and D-alanine) indicated increasing bacterial contributions to carbon uptake with increasing amino acid structural complexity. All primary producers acquired nitrogen from a complex pool of algae-derived dissolved organic matter (DOM), but algae-derived dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was almost exclusively used by the planktonic compartment. In contrast, a similar complex pool of bacteria-derived DOM was not taken up in significant quantities by any of the primary producers. Our results illustrate that dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) can provide bioavailable nitrogen to primary producers and bacteria in seagrass ecosystems on very short time-scales, and DON and DOC dynamics are largely uncoupled and must be investigated as 2 separate interacting pools.


KEY WORDS: Dissolved organic matter · Seagrass ecosystems · Uptake · Complexity · Phytoplankton · Epiphytes · Zostera noltii · Cymodocea nodosa · Caulerpa prolifera


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Cite this article as: Van Engeland T, Bouma TJ, Morris EP, Brun FG and others (2013) Dissolved organic matter uptake in a temperate seagrass ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 478:87-100. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10183

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