Differences in benthic metabolism, nutrient fluxes, and denitrification in Caulerpa taxifolia communities compared to uninvaded bare sediment and seagrass (Zostera capricorni) habitats
Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(5), 2011, 1737-1750 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.5.1737
ABSTRACT: Benthic metabolism, nutrient fluxes, and denitrification were measured in Caulerpa taxifolia communities that had recently invaded (between 2003 and 2008) bare sediments following the loss of Zostera capricorni (prior to 2003), and in adjacent Z. capricorni communities and bare sediments, to determine the likely changes in ecosystem function following C. taxifolia colonization. Areas colonized by C. taxifolia had higher gross primary production (GPP), net primary production (NPP), and dark benthic N2 effluxes than adjacent bare sediments, but lower dark benthic NH+4 effluxes. C. taxifolia invasion of bare sediments had a beneficial role in removing excess nitrogen from the system through enhanced denitrification. In contrast, areas occupied by C. taxifolia had similar GPP and NPP relative to Z. capricorni beds and similar benthic N2 and NH+4 effluxes. Thus, C. taxifolia appears to play a comparable role to Z. capricorni in terms of some ecosystem functions, although the degree of similarity is likely to be affected by the relative densities of the two macrophytes. However, replacement of Z. capricorni communities by C. taxifolia appears to significantly alter the quantity and quality (higher ratio) of benthic dissolved organic carbon and dissolved organic nitrogen fluxes.