Seagrass litter decomposition: an additional nutrient source to shallow coastal waters
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Seagrass ecosystems are vital for its regulatory services yet, highly threatened by degradation due to human pressures. Decomposition of two tropical seagrass species (Cymodocea serrulata and Cymodocea rotundata) was studied and compared, to understand their potential in generating additional nutrients to coastal waters. Release of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus during the decomposition process of seagrass wracks was estimated in bacteria-active (non-poisoned) and bacteria-inhibited (poisoned) conditions from shore-washed fresh seagrass, sampled from Palk Bay, India. Incubation experiments for 25 days indicated a near three times higher concentration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in bacteria-inhibited flasks compared to bacteria-active conditions for both species. The maximum leaching rates of DOC, TDN and TDP were found to be 294, 65.1 and 11.2 μM/g dry wt/day, respectively. Further, higher release of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) (> 1.3 times) was documented from the bacteria-active flask, highlighting the significance of microbial process in generating bio-available nutrients from decaying seagrass. Faster decomposition (0.014 ± 0.004 day−1) in the initial stages (up to 8 days) compared to the later stages (0.005 ± 0.001 day−1) indicated a rapid loss of biomass carbon during the initial leaching process and its relative importance in the decomposition pathway. The decomposition rate is best described by a single-stage exponential decay model with a half-life of 41 days. It is estimated that the total seagrass litter available along the Palk Bay coast is about ~ 0.3 Gg with high potential of additional nitrogen (0.9 ± 0.5 Mg) and phosphorus (0.3 ± 0.1 Mg) supply to the adjacent coastal waters.
KeywordsSeagrass wracks Nutrient leaching Decay rates Palk Bay
This study was undertaken as part of the in-house research study of NCSCM on “BECoCE” studies (IR12008).
This study was financially and technically supported by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, and the World Bank under the India ICZM Project.
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