Does nutrient availability regulate seagrass response to elevated CO2?

Future increases in oceanic carbon dioxide concentrations (CO2(aq)) may provide a benefit to submerged plants by alleviating photosynthetic carbon limitation. However, other environmental factors (for example, nutrient availability) may alter how seagrasses respond to CO2(aq) by regulating the supply of additional resources required to support growth. Thus, questions remain in regard to how other factors influence CO2(aq) effects on submerged vegetation. This study factorially manipulated CO2(aq) and nutrient availability, in situ, within a subtropical seagrass bed for 350 days, and examined treatment effects on leaf productivity, shoot density, above- and belowground biomass, nutrient content, carbohydrate storage, and sediment organic carbon (Corg). Clear, open-top chambers were used to replicate CO2(aq) forecasts for the year 2100, whereas nutrient availability was manipulated via sediment amendments of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizer. We provide modest evidence of a CO2 effect, which increased seagrass aboveground biomass. CO2(aq) enrichment had no effect on nutrient content, carbohydrate storage, or sediment Corg content. Nutrient addition increased leaf productivity and leaf N content, however did not alter above- or belowground biomass, shoot density, carbohydrate storage, or Corg content. Treatment interactions were not significant, and thus NP availability did not influence seagrass responses to elevated CO2(aq). This study demonstrates that long-term carbon enrichment may alter the structure of shallow seagrass meadows, even in relatively nutrient-poor, oligotrophic systems.

Campbell J. E. & Fourqurean J. W., in press. Does nutrient availability regulate seagrass response to elevated CO2? Ecosystems. Article (subscription required).

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