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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 648:125-134 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13429

Competition for nitrogen between the seaweed Caulerpa prolifera and the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa

Ana Alexandre*, Rui Santos

Marine Plant Ecology Research Group, CCMAR, Centre of Marine Sciences, University of Algarve, Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The rhizophytic seaweed Caulerpa prolifera has been expanding rapidly in the Ria Formosa lagoon, southern Portugal, taking over deeper unvegetated areas and mixing with the native seagrass Cymodocea nodosa in shallower areas. In the Ria Formosa lagoon, belowground ammonium uptake from the sediment represents the main source of nitrogen for the 2 macrophytes, except during the ammonium pulses from the sediment to the water column that are incorporated through aboveground plant parts. We examined the competition for inorganic and organic nitrogen between C. prolifera and C. nodosa through a series of 15N-ammonium and 15N-amino acid surge uptake experiments combining single-species and mixed incubations at a range of nutrient concentrations. Our results showed that C. prolifera is generally faster than C. nodosa in the acquisition of ammonium and amino acids by both above- and belowground parts, and that the uptake rates of ammonium and amino acids of one species were not affected by the presence of the other species. The exception was the amino acid uptake through the rhizoids of C. prolifera, which was slightly enhanced in the presence of C. nodosa. In this situation, the aboveground ammonium uptake becomes the main contributor to the nitrogen budget of C. nodosa but not to that of C. prolifera. When ammonium pulses are considered, C. nodosa is more competitive for nitrogen than C. prolifera. In this case, the leaf uptake of ammonium is the largest contributor to the total nitrogen (ammonium plus amino acids) budget of the seagrass. Our results showed that the different nutritional strategies of the 2 macrophytes allow their coexistence in the Ria Formosa lagoon.


KEY WORDS: Nitrogen uptake · Caulerpa prolifera · Cymodocea nodosa · Competition · Interactions · Amino acids · Ammonium · Ria Formosa


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Cite this article as: Alexandre A, Santos R (2020) Competition for nitrogen between the seaweed Caulerpa prolifera and the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 648:125-134. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13429

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