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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13429

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

Ana Alexandre*, Rui Santos

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The rhizophytic seaweed Caulerpa prolifera has been expanding rapidly in Ria Formosa lagoon, southern Portugal, taking over deeper unvegetated areas and mixing with the native seagrass Cymodocea nodosa in shallower areas. In Ria Formosa lagoon, belowground ammonium uptake from the sediment represents the main source of nitrogen for the two 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 is the amino acid uptake through the rhizoids of C. prolifera that was slightly enhanced in the presence of C. nodosa. Under this situation, the aboveground ammonium uptake becomes the main contributor for the nitrogen budget of C. nodosa but not for C. prolifera. When ammonium pulses are considered, C. nodosa is more competitive for nitrogen than C. prolifera. In this situation, the leaf uptake of ammonium is the largest contributor to the total nitrogen (ammonium plus amino acids) budget of the seagrass.