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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 167:297-299 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps167297

δ15N evidence for nitrogen fixation associated with macroalgae from a seagrass-mangrove-coral reef system

R. France1,*, J. Holmquist2, M. Chandler3, A. Cattaneo4

1Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy St, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA 2 Dept Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, Isla Magueyes Laboratories, PO Box 908 Lajas, Puerto Rico 00667, USA 3New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, Massachusetts 02110, USA 4Dept Sciences Biologiques, Universite de Montreal, CP 6128, Succ. Centre Ville, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7, Canada

Early studies using acetylene reduction have suggested that macroalgae may contribute to nitrogen enrichment of waters near coral reefs via nitrogen fixation by their epiphytic cyanophytes. Our objectives were to investigate the potential of stable nitrogen isotope analysis for detecting nitrogen fixation in near-reef macroalgae, and to compare these findings with those for different fixing and non-fixing autotrophs from other systems. We made collections of near-reef algae in Puerto Rico, seagrasses and macroalgae from the northeast coast of the U.S., and freshwater algae from streams in Quebec, Canada. The mean ± SD δ15N for our near-reef algae was 0.3 ± 1.0o/oo, values which were significantly lower than those from our other sampling areas and also well below published values for other marine benthic nitrogen fixers (ca 2o/oo) and non-fixers (ca 6o/oo). Our results provide a useful test of the value of stable nitrogen analysis in detecting nitrogen fixation of near-reef algae, thereby supporting previous non-isotope work in suggesting that this macroalgal-cyanophyte complex may provide an important source of fixed nitrogen to reef systems.

Benthic macroalgae · δ15N · Inferred nitrogen fixation

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