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Use of sediment CO₂ by submersed rooted plants

Winkel, Anders, Borum, Jens
Annals of botany 2009 v.103 no.7 pp. 1015-1023
Hydrocotyle, Lilaeopsis, Lobelia, Ludwigia, Vallisneria americana, air, carbon, lakes, leaves, photosynthesis, plant morphology, root shoot ratio, roots, sediments, stems, submerged aquatic plants
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Submersed plants have different strategies to overcome inorganic carbon limitation. It is generally assumed that only small rosette species (isoetids) are able to utilize the high sediment CO₂ availability. The present study examined to what extent five species of submersed freshwater plants with different morphology and growth characteristics (Lobelia dortmanna, Lilaeopsis macloviana, Ludwigia repens, Vallisneria americana and Hydrocotyle verticillata) are able to support photosynthesis supplied by uptake of CO₂ from the sediment. METHODS: Gross photosynthesis was measured in two-compartment split chambers with low inorganic carbon availability in leaf compartments and variable CO₂ availability (0 to >8 mmol L⁻¹) in root compartments. Photosynthetic rates based on root-supplied CO₂ were compared with maximum rates obtained at saturating leaf CO₂ availability, and ¹⁴C experiments were conducted for two species to localize bottlenecks for utilization of sediment CO₂. KEY RESULTS: All species except Hydrocotyle were able to use sediment CO₂, however, with variable efficiency, and with the isoetid, Lobelia, as clearly the most effective and the elodeid, Ludwigia, as the least efficient. At a water column CO₂ concentration in equilibrium with air, Lobelia, Lilaeopsis and Vallisneria covered >75% of their CO₂ requirements by sediment uptake, and sediment CO₂ contributed substantially to photosynthesis at water CO₂ concentrations up to 1000 μmol L⁻¹. For all species except Ludwigia, the shoot to root ratio on an areal basis was the single factor best explaining variability in the importance of sediment CO₂. For Ludwigia, diffusion barriers limited uptake or transport from roots to stems and transport from stems to leaves. CONCLUSIONS: Submersed plants other than isoetids can utilize sediment CO₂, and small and medium sized elodeids with high root to shoot area in particular may benefit substantially from uptake of sediment CO₂ in low alkaline lakes.