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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 604:121-132 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12740

High temperatures cause reduced growth, plant death and metabolic changes in eelgrass Zostera marina

Kathrine Jul Hammer1, Jens Borum1,*, Harald Hasler-Sheetal2,3, Erin C. Shields4, Kaj Sand-Jensen1, Kenneth A. Moore4

1Freshwater Biological Laboratory, Biological Institute, University of Copenhagen, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
2Nordcee, Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, 5230 Odense M, Denmark
3Villum Center for Bioanalytical Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, 5230 Odense M, Denmark
4Virginia Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: We investigated temperature effects on eelgrass Zostera marina L. growing close to its southern distribution limit along the eastern coast of North America in Virginia, USA. We combined growth and survival experiments with microelectrode measurements of internal meristematic oxygen and analyses of metabolic compounds. Eelgrass shoots were grown at 3 different temperatures (22, 26 and 30°C) and field equivalent light levels (23% of sea surface insolation) for 28 d while water column oxygen concentration was kept at air saturation. Meristematic oxygen concentrations did not vary significantly with temperature, and meristems maintained a relatively high oxygen concentration (average: 38% air saturation) during dark hours. Despite high meristematic oxygen concentrations, shoots growing at 30°C exhibited increased mortality, reduced growth and reduced leaf production compared to shoots growing at 22 and 26°C. The leaf metabolome was significantly altered at 30°C, indicating an increase of reactive oxygen species. In addition, total nitrogen and metabolites related to the nitrogen cycle (amino acids, urea and γ-aminobutyric acid [GABA]) were low in the heat-stressed shoots, whereas soluble sugars increased. In conclusion, high temperature (30°C) has strong negative effects on eelgrass in the lower Chesapeake Bay, affecting growth, tissue integrity, nitrogen metabolism and protein/enzyme synthesis. Future global warming may likely deteriorate populations of eelgrass at its present southern distribution limit.


KEY WORDS: Zostera marina · Temperature stress · Growth · Metabolomics · Climate change


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Cite this article as: Hammer KJ, Borum J, Hasler-Sheetal H, Shields EC, Sand-Jensen K, Moore KA (2018) High temperatures cause reduced growth, plant death and metabolic changes in eelgrass Zostera marina. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 604:121-132. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12740

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