Marine Biology

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 27–35 | Cite as

Growth and utilization of internal nitrogen reserves by the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera in a low-nitrogen environment

  • V. A. Gerard


An adult giant kelp plant (Macrocystis pyrifera), moved from an inshore kelp forest to an offshore, low-nitrogen environment near Santa Catalina Island, California (USA), maintained growth for 2 wk on internal nitrogen reserves. Frond elongation rates decreased significantly during the third week, and plant growth rate (wet wt) dropped from an initial inshore rate of 3.6 to 0.9% d-1. During this 3 wk period, nitrogen contents and free amino acid concentrations decreased, while mannitol and dry contents increased in frond tissues. After depletion of internal nitrogen reserves, the nitrogen content of lamina and stipe tissues averaged 1.1 and 0.7% dry wt, respectively. The experimental plant was exposed to higher ambient nitrogen concentrations during the last 2 wk. Rates of frond elongation and plant growth increased, but nitrogen content and amino acids in frond tissues remained low. Of the total nitrogen contained in frond tissue of the plant before transplantation, 58% was used to support growth in the absence of significant external nitrogen supply. Amino acids constituted a small proportion of these internal nitrogen reserves. Net movement of nitrogen occurred within large fronds, but not between different frond size classes. The nitrogen content of holdfast tissue remained relatively constant at 2.4% dry wt and accounted for 18 to 29% of the total nitrogen. Holdfast nitrogen was not used to support growth of nitrogen-depleted fronds. In comparison to Laminaria longicruris, which is adapted to long seasonal periods of low nitrogen availability, M. pyrifera has small nitrogen-storage capacity. However, internal reserves of M. pyrifera appear adequate to make nitrogen starvation uncommon in southern California kelp forests.


Kelp Forest Giant Kelp Free Amino Acid Concentration Macrocystis Pyrifera Kelp Plant 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. A. Gerard
    • 1
  1. 1.Kerckhoff Marine LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyCorona del MarUSA

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