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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 160:35-46 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps160035

Response of epilithic microphytobenthos of the Western Baltic Sea to in situ experiments with nutrient enrichment

H. Hillebrand*, U. Sommer

Abt. Meeresbotanik, Institut für Meereskunde, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany

The response of epilithic microphytobenthos to in situ nutrient enrichments was studied in the Kiel Fjord, Western Baltic Sea. For this purpose an experimental setup with continuous nutrient supply was designed and installed. Experiments followed the colonization of artificial substrates and the responses of benthic algae to different concentrations and combinations of nitrogen and phosphate. They revealed nitrogen limitation of epilithic microflora from late spring to autumn, such that there was higher biovolume with increasing nitrogen concentrations. Diatoms became dominant in all experiments except one in which the rhodophyte Ceramium strictum prevailed. Species composition was altered by nutrient treatments; one to several species were highly favoured by nutrient enrichment. Consequently, diversity was negatively correlated with final yield. These findings support the hypothesis that competition is an important factor structuring microphytobenthic communities.

Competition · Nitrogen · Phosphate · Microphytobenthos · Diatoms · Filamentous algae · Periphyton · Kiel Fjord

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