Waves and high nutrient loads jointly decrease survival and separately affect morphological and biomechanical properties in the seagrass Zostera noltii

Yayu A. La Nafie, Carmen B. de los Santos, Fernando G. Brun, Marieke M. van Katwijk and Tjeerd J. Bouma

Limnol. Oceanogr., 57(6), 2012, 1664-1672 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2012.57.6.1664

ABSTRACT: In an 8-week aquarium experiment, we investigated the interactive effects of waves (present vs. absent) and water-column nutrient level (high vs. low) on the survival, growth, morphology, and biomechanics of the seagrass, Zostera noltii. Survival was reduced when plants were exposed to both waves and high nutrient levels. Wave and nutrient interaction significantly reduced aboveground biomass and leaf lengths, whereas waves independently reduced growth rate, internode abundance, elongation, and appearance rates. Nutrient supply significantly reduced the strength of the leaves. Wave and nutrient interaction was the main driving force affecting survival and morphological properties of seagrass, whereas dynamical characteristics were independently affected by waves, and nutrient supply affected mainly biomechanical properties. In conclusion, this experiment revealed that the combination of exposure to waves and high nutrient levels was detrimental for Z. noltii, which indicates that this could be an important unexplored force involved in seagrass declines.

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