, Volume 94, Issue 3, pp 469-477

Sediment ammonium availability and eelgrass (Zostera marina) growth

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The interaction of sediment ammonium (NH 4 + ) availability and eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) growth, biomass and photosynthesis was investigated using controlled environment and in-situ manipulations of pore water ammonium concentrations. Sediment diffusers were used to create pore water diffusion gradients to fertilize and deplete ammonium levels in sediments with intact eelgrass rhizospheres. Between October, 1982 and September, 1983 controlled environment experiments using plants from shallow (1.3 m) and deep (5.5 m) stations in a Great Harbor, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA eelgrass meadow along with in-situ experiments at these stations provided a range of sediment ammonium concentrations between 0.1 and 10 mM (adsorbed+interstitial NH 4 + ). The results of the in-situ experiments indicate that nitrogen limitation of eelgrass growth does not occur in the Great Harbor eelgrass meadow. A comparison of NH 4 + regeneration rates and eelgrass nitrogen requirements indicates an excess of nitrogen supply over demand and provides an explanation for the lack of response to the manipulations. Results of controlled environment experiments combined with in-situ results suggest that sediment ammonium pool concentrations above approximately 100 μmol NH 4 + per liter of sediment (interstitial only) saturate the growth response of Zostera marina.

Communicated by J. M. Lawrence, Tampa