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Leaf vs. epiphyte nitrogen uptake in a nutrient enriched Mediterranean seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) meadow

Apostolaki, Eugenia T., Vizzini, Salvatrice, Karakassis, Ioannis
Aquatic botany 2012 v.96 no.1 pp. 58-62
correlation, epiphytes, fish farms, leaves, meadows, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nutrient uptake, seagrasses
In situ nitrogen uptake by leaves and epiphytes was studied in a Mediterranean seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) meadow impacted from a fish farm and a pristine meadow, using ¹⁵NH₄ and ¹⁵NO₃ as tracers. In the impacted meadow both leaves and epiphytes yielded higher N concentrations and showed higher specific N uptake, suggesting a linkage between N uptake and its accumulation. Epiphytes took up N faster than leaves in relation to their corresponding biomass, but when assessed per unit area, N uptake was higher in leaves. Leaf N uptake was negatively correlated with epiphyte N uptake. With increasing epiphyte load on leaves, N leaf uptake decreased while N epiphyte uptake increased, indicating that epiphyte overgrowth hinders N uptake by P. oceanica leaves. Epiphyte contribution to total N uptake increased, while that of leaves decreased at the impacted meadow. However, 2–3 times less N was transferred daily from the water column to the benthic compartment, through seagrass and epiphyte uptake on total, at the impacted meadow. Therefore, it is probably still the loss of the key species – the seagrass – which plays the most important role in N cycling in seagrass ecosystems.