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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 519:129-140 (2015)  -  DOI:

Genotype-specific responses to light stress in eelgrass Zostera marina, a marine foundation plant

Tiina Salo1,2,*, Thorsten B. H. Reusch3, Christoffer Boström2

1Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change, Roskilde University, Universitetsvej 1, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
2Department of Biosciences, Environmental and Marine Biology, Åbo Akademi University, Artillerigatan 6, 20520 Åbo, Finland
3Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes, GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Within mono-specific meadows of clonal plants, genotypic diversity may functionally replace species diversity. Little is known about the variability in performance and plasticity of different genotypes towards anthropogenically induced stressors. In this field experiment we compared light-limitation stress responses and recovery of different eelgrass Zostera marina genotypes to assess the variability in phenotypic plasticity and gene expression between different genotypes. Replicated monoculture plots of 4 genotypes were subjected to a simulated turbidity period of 4 wk using shading screens, and their performance during light limitation and 4 wk of recovery was compared to non-shaded controls. In addition to growth and biomass, we investigated storage carbohydrates and quantified the expression of genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, photosynthesis and control of oxidative stress. Plants showed remarkable plasticity in their stress responses and all phenotypic variables recovered to the control level within 4 wk. Depletion and subsequent restoration of sucrose levels differed among genotypes. In terms of gene expression, no consistent patterns were observed. Our study confirms that stress responses and recovery processes can vary substantially between genotypes and the results emphasize the importance of preserving regional genotypic diversity for immediate positive diversity effects and for adaptive evolution in response to global change.

KEY WORDS: Gene expression · Plasticity · Seagrass · Shading · Sucrose

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Cite this article as: Salo T, Reusch TBH, Boström C (2015) Genotype-specific responses to light stress in eelgrass Zostera marina, a marine foundation plant. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 519:129-140.

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