MEPS 575:69-80 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12206

Seasonality affects dinitrogen fixation associated with two common macroalgae from a coral reef in the northern Red Sea

Arjen Tilstra1,*, Vanessa N. Bednarz2,3, Ulisse Cardini2,4, Nanne van Hoytema2, Mamoon M. D. Al-Rshaidat5, Christian Wild1

1Marine Ecology Group, Faculty of Biology and Chemistry, University of Bremen, Leobener Str. UFT, 28359 Bremen, Germany
2Coral Reef Ecology Group (CORE), Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT), Fahrenheitstr. 6, 28359 Bremen, Germany
3Centre Scientifique de Monaco, MC 98000, Monaco, Principality of Monaco
4Integrative Marine Ecology Department, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, 80121 Naples, Italy
5Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Jordan, Amman, 11942, Jordan
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Nitrogen (N) is often a limiting nutrient for primary production in coral reef ecosystems. In this context, dinitrogen (N2)-fixing prokaryotes (diazotrophs) associated with benthic primary producers can relieve N limitation. Macroalgae are key reef players that are generally able to rapidly uptake dissolved inorganic nutrients. They may thus particularly benefit from the activity of associated diazotrophs. With this rationale, this study investigated N2 fixation activity and net primary production associated with 2 dominant coral reef macroalgae (the green algal genus Caulerpa and the brown algal genus Lobophora) during all 4 seasons in a fringing northern Red Sea reef using the acetylene using the acetylene reduction assay and oxygen production and consumption measurements. Both macroalgae exhibited associated N2 fixation activity during all seasons with lowest activity in winter and significantly higher activity (1 and 2 orders of magnitude increase for Lobophora and Caulerpa, respectively) during the nutrient-depleted summer, while net primary production for both macroalgae remained relatively constant over all 4 seasons. Primary production rates of the macroalgae were comparable to corals from the same area on a yearly average. Conversely, average N2 fixation rates of both macroalgae were approximately 5‑fold higher than rates reported for hard corals that were incubated in parallel experiments. These results indicate that macroalgae can capitalize on higher inputs of N from epibiotic diazotrophs, which in turn could prove an ecological advantage when competing for space with corals.


KEY WORDS: Gulf of Aqaba · Acetylene reduction · Primary production · Macroalgae · Dinitrogen fixation


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Cite this article as: Tilstra A, Bednarz VN, Cardini U, van Hoytema N, Al-Rshaidat MMD, Wild C (2017) Seasonality affects dinitrogen fixation associated with two common macroalgae from a coral reef in the northern Red Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 575:69-80. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12206

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