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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 590:53-66 (2018)  -  DOI:

Nutrient production in rhodolith beds: impact of a foundation species and its associates

L. A. McConnico1,2,*, G. Hernández-Carmona3, R. Riosmena-Rodríguez1,† 

1Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, Departamento de Ciencias Marinas y Costeras, Programa de Investigación en Botánica Marina, Apartado postal 19-B, km 5.5 carretera al Sur, La Paz, BCS 23080, Mexico
2Cuesta College, PO Box 8106, San Luis Obispo, CA 93403, USA
3Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas, Av. Instituto Politécnico Nacional S/N, Colonia Playa Palo de Santa Rita, La Paz, BCS 23096, Mexico
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Foundation species harboring associated fauna and micro-organisms provide an opportunity to explore nutrient contributions from excretion and decomposition (recycled nutrients) relative to new inputs. Rhodoliths, free-living non-geniculate coralline algae, support diverse cryptofaunal and microbial assemblages which could supply regenerated nutrients to their hosts, but studies of such nutrient dynamics are limited. We assessed temporal variability in concentrations of dissolved inorganic nutrients (ammonium: NH4+, nitrate + nitrite: NOx-, and orthophosphate: PO43-) associated with rhodolith beds on the Gulf of California and Pacific sides of Baja California Sur, Mexico, and considered potential sources of nutrient enrichment from cryptofauna, microbes and allochthonous inputs. Data suggest rhodoliths and/or sediments provide NH4+, NOx- and PO43- in excess of water column availability, regardless of season or year. Cryptofaunal biomass was positively correlated with rhodolith diameter at all sites, and in some cases so was nutrient concentration. Ammonium and PO43- enrichment in rhodoliths may be attributed to cryptofaunal excretion or decomposition by micro-organisms. While seasonal delivery of new nutrients (NOx-) via wind-induced water motion occurred in the Gulf, NOx- in the Pacific was likely impacted by microbial-mediated nitrification. Light and dark incubations showed that rhodolith assemblages may initially take up NH4+ over NOx%-, but all nutrients were consumed in the presence and absence of light. This study highlights the importance of rhodoliths in coastal and estuarine environments not only as foundation species, but also for their role in nutrient cycling, especially in areas of seasonal nutrient limitation.

KEY WORDS: Rhodolith · Cryptofauna · Microbes · Nutrient recycling · Nitrogen · Phosphorus · Upwelling · Gulf of California · Bahía Magdalena · Bahía Concepción

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Cite this article as: McConnico LA, Hernández-Carmona G, Riosmena-Rodríguez R (2018) Nutrient production in rhodolith beds: impact of a foundation species and its associates. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 590:53-66.

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