, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 113–126 | Cite as

The effects of manipulation of sedimentary iron and organic matter on sediment biogeochemistry and seagrasses in a subtropical carbonate environment

  • Sergio Ruiz-Halpern
  • Stephen A. Macko
  • James W. Fourqurean


The microbial metabolism of organic matter (OM) in seagrass beds can create sulfidic conditions detrimental to seagrass growth; iron (Fe) potentially has ameliorating effects through titration of the sulfides and the precipitation of iron-sulfide minerals into the sediment. In this study, the biogeochemical effects of Fe availability and its interplay with sulfur and OM on sulfide toxicity, phosphorous (P) availability, seagrass growth and community structure were tested. The availability of Fe and OM was manipulated in a 2 × 2 factorial experiment arranged in a Latin square, with four replicates per treatment. The treatments included the addition of Fe, the addition of OM, the addition of both Fe and OM as well as no addition. The experiment was conducted in an oligotrophic, iron-deficient seagrass bed. Fe had an 84.5% retention efficiency in the sediments with the concentration of Fe increasing in the seagrass leaves over the course of the experiment. Porewater chemistry was significantly altered with a dramatic decrease in sulfide levels in Fe addition plots while sulfide levels increased in the OM addition treatments. Phosphorus increased in seagrass leaves collected in the Fe addition plots. Decreased sulfide stress was evidenced by heavier δ34S in leaves and rhizomes from plots to which Fe was added. The OM addition negatively affected seagrass growth but increased P availability; the reduced sulfide stress in Fe added plots resulted in elevated productivity. Fe availability may be an important determinant of the impact that OM has on seagrass vitality in carbonate sediments vegetated with seagrasses.


Florida Bay Sediment geochemistry sulfate reduction Sulfide stress Nutrient limitation 



We thank Bryan M. Dewsbury and Travis Thyberg for help during field work and collection of samples and Dr R.M. Price for performing the anion concentration analyses. Drs R.M. Chambers and D.L. Childers provided guidance on experimental design, analytical methods and data analyses and read and commented on early drafts of this paper. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program (Grant No. 9910514). This is contribution number 372 of the Southeast Environmental Research Center at FIU.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sergio Ruiz-Halpern
    • 1
  • Stephen A. Macko
    • 2
  • James W. Fourqurean
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Fairchild Tropical Botanic GardenCoral GablesUSA

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