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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 225:177-187 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps225177

Assessing the toxicity of ammonium pulses to the survival and growth of Zostera noltii

Fernando G. Brun*, Ignacio Hernández, Juan J. Vergara, Gloria Peralta, J. Lucas Pérez-Lloréns

Departamento de Ecología, Universidad de Cádiz, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, 11510 Puerto Real, Cádiz, Spain

ABSTRACT: The present study assessed the effect of seawater ammonium enrichment on survival and growth of the seagrass Zostera noltii Hornem. Ammonium enrichment had an inhibitory effect on shoot, rhizome and root elongation rates, as well as on primary production. The inhibitory effect was partially alleviated by phosphate addition. The frequency of ammonium pulses also affected growth negatively, with a maximum effect at both low and high pulse frequencies. Similar results were obtained when the experiment was run in the field during a winter trial. However, when the field experiment was repeated in spring at higher mean temperature and irradiance levels, opposite results were obtained, with ammonium enrichment causing a substantial increase in growth rates and productivity. These responses were related to the internal balance of non-structural carbohydrates (especially sucrose) with respect to C and N cell metabolism. Thus, there was a mobilisation of sucrose in both above- and belowground tissues to meet C increased demands arising from ammonium assimilation in winter, with sucrose concentrations reaching critical levels in relation to the total internal C pool. In contrast, sucrose accumulated in the tissues when ammonium pulses were applied in spring, indicating an enhanced C turnover that was able to meet the increased demands arising from ammonium assimilation into organic N compounds.

KEY WORDS: Ammonium · Eutrophication · Nitrogen · Primary production · Seagrass · Sucrose · Zostera noltii

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