, Volume 213, Issue 1, pp 64-70

Non-photosynthetic enhancement of growth by high CO2 level in the nitrophilic seaweed Ulva rigida C. Agardh (Chlorophyta)

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The effects of increased CO2 levels (10,000 μl l−1) in cultures of the green nitrophilic macroalga Ulva rigida C. Agardh were tested under conditions of N saturation and N limitation, using nitrate as the only N source. Enrichment with CO2 enhanced growth, while net photosynthesis, gross photosynthesis, dark respiration rates and soluble protein content decreased. The internal C pool remained constant at high CO2, while the assimilated C that was released to the external medium was less than half the values obtained under ambient CO2 levels. This higher retention of C provided the source for extra biomass production under N saturation. In N-sufficient thalli, nitrate-uptake rate and the activity of nitrate reductase (EC increased under high CO2 levels. This did not affect the N content or the internal C:N balance, implying that the extra N-assimilation capacity led to the production of new biomass in proportion to C. Growth enhancement by increased level of CO2 was entirely dependent on the enhancement effect of CO2 on N-assimilation rates. The increase in nitrate reductase activity at high CO2 was not related to soluble carbohydrates or internal C. This indicates that the regulation of N assimilation by CO2 in U. rigida might involve a different pathway from that proposed for higher plants. The role of organic C release as an effective regulatory mechanism maintaining the internal C:N balance in response to different CO2 levels is discussed.

Received: 27 March 2000 / Accepted: 9 October 2000