Marine Biology

, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 221–229 | Cite as

Nutrient enrichment of seagrass beds in a rhode island coastal lagoon

  • M. M. Harlin
  • B. Thorne-Miller


Seagrass and algal beds showed a variety of reponses when the water column was treated with low level additions of ammonium, nitrate and phosphate. The nutrients were added separately to 3 uniform seagrass beds of a temperature coastal lagoon during 1979 and 1980. (1) Ammonium caused the production of dense mats of free-floating green algae Enteromorpha plumosa and Ulva lactuca. It also stimulated growth in both the leaf and root-rhizome fractions of Zostera marina. This growth response in Z. marina was greater in the area where current reached 12 cm · s-1 than in the area with little or no current. The concentration of nitrogen in the tissue did not change. In contrast, where current was lacking, Z. marina growth increase with ammonium was small, but the concentration of nitrogen in the tissue doubled over that in control plots. The growth of Ruppia maritima was inversely related to the growth of green algae in the same plots. The red alga Gracilaria tikvahiae did not grow better in ammonium, but its tissue reddened. (2) Nitrate additions enhanced the growth of the green seaweeds Enteromorpha spp. and U. lactuca, but not Z. marina or R. maritima. G. tikvahiae, when fertilized in isolation from other plants, showed a marginal response to this nutrient, and the tissue always reddened. (3) Phosphate enhanced growth in Z. marina and R. maritima exposed to moderate current. G. tikvahiae growing alone showed a small growth response to phosphate. The phosphate made no difference in the growth of the green seaweeds. (4) None of the nutrient supplements noticeably altered the species composition of either epiphytic or planktonic algae associated with the beds, although we did detect small increases in their numbers. The rapid and dense growth of green algae in nitrogen-enriched water probably limited growth of adjacent seagrasses and red algae. Because these seaweeds did not use the phosphate, it became available to other plant components. The overall floral response to nutrient addition in seagrass communities depends, therefore, upon the particular nutrient supplied, the ability of alternate species in the area to compete for that nutrient and the velocity of current in the specific area.


Green Alga Ulva Coastal Lagoon Nitrate Addition Seagrass Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. Harlin
    • 1
  • B. Thorne-Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

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