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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 141:199-204 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps141199

Photosynthesis of marine macroalgae and seagrasses in globally changing CO2 environments

Beer S, Koch E

Photosynthetic rates of many marine macroalgae are saturated by the present day inorganic carbon (Ci) composition of seawater, while those of seagrasses (or marine angiosperms) are CO2-limited. In this study we attempted to simulate the Ci conditions of near-shore seawater during the time that seagrasses colonised the sea (in the Cretaceous), and compare the photosynthetic performance of representatives of the 2 plant groups under those versus present day conditions. The results show that the seagrasses have an affinity for Ci at least as high as the algae under the low pH and high CO2/HCO3- concentration ratios simulating near-shore areas of the Cretaceous seas, indicating that their photosynthetic capacity then matched that of macroalgae. However, in the high pH and high CO2/HCO3- ratios of today, their affinity for Ci is lower than that of the macroalgae, and it is suggested that this deficiency renders them a lower ability for Ci utilisation. This situation may possibly be reversed again as global CO2 levels of the atmosphere and, consequently, of near-shore marine habitats increase in the future.

Marine macroalgae · Seagrasses · Photosynthesis · CO2 · Global change

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