Nutrient Bioaccumulation in Phragmites australis: Management Tool for Reduction of Pollution in the Mar Menor

  • M. Ruiz
  • J. VelascoEmail author


We studied nutrient removal by Phragmites australis in the Albujón rambla, the main drainage system that discharges into the Mar Menor, a Mediterranean coastal lagoon of high conservation interest, but highly threatened by point and nonpoint pollution derived from tourism and agricultural activities. We measured aerial biomass and N and P concentrations in both aboveground and belowground tissues of common reed during an annual cycle that included two cutting events and two periods of reed growth (one at the end of summer after cutting and another at the beginning of spring, following their natural cycle). The temporal variation of N and P concentrations was related to the phenology of the plant and cutting events. The maximum nutrient concentrations were recorded in young stems in the initial stages of the autumn growing season (35.86 mg N g−1 and 2.38 mg P g−1). The phosphorus dynamics showed evidence of translocation processes related with growth activity, although no evidence of N translocation was found. In November and in summer, when aerial growth ceases because of the hard conditions, the P concentration in rhizomes was higher than in stems, while in spring and in September, the period of maximal growth, the reverse relation was found. The highest total amounts of the two elements in the aboveground biomass (0.54 Tm N ha−1 and 0.25 Tm P ha−1) were reached in July, coinciding with the highest biomass (3.72 kg DW m−2), which then decreased to approximately half in August. Nutrient content in the aboveground tissues was highly dependent on the ammonium and nitrate water concentrations. In addition, the N content was inversely related to the Corg/N of sediments, while the P content was influenced positively by the phosphorous concentration of the water. Common reed of the Albujón rambla corresponds to the assimilation type, adapted to nutrient-rich habitats, which is characterized by a pronounced external N cycle and P internal reserves. Based on the results obtained, we propose a management plan for common reed to help control eutrophication of the Mar Menor lagoon. This would bring forward reed cutting to the beginning of summer, instead of August, coinciding with the time of maximum aerial biomass, greater nutrient retention, and lower risk of strong precipitation.


Phragmites australis Nutrients Bioaccumulation Mar Menor Water pollution 



This work was partially funded by the Consejería de Agricultura, Agua y Medio Ambiente of the Murcia Region, Programa Séneca, 2001 (Project AGR/24/FS/02). We thank R. Alcántara, J. Lloret, C. Gutierrez, and D. Bruno for assistance in the field work, J. Lloret for design Fig. 1, and O. Belmar for assistance in processing samples in the laboratory, also A. Millán for his helpful comments on the manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Hydrology, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of MurciaMurciaSpain

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