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Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 860–876 | Cite as

Nutrient-Replete Benthic Microalgae as a Source of Dissolved Organic Carbon to Coastal Waters

  • William P. Porubsky
  • Liliana E. Velasquez
  • Samantha B. JoyeEmail author
Article

Abstract

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) flux dynamics were examined in the context of other biogeochemical cycles in intertidal sediments inhabited by benthic microalgae. In August 2003, gross oxygenic photosynthetic (GOP) rates, oxygen penetration depths, and benthic flux rates were quantified at seven sites along the Duplin River, GA, USA. Sediments contained abundant benthic microalgal (BMA) biomass with a maximum chlorophyll a concentration of 201 mg chl a m−2. Oxygen microelectrodes were used to determine GOP rates and O2 penetration depth, which were tightly correlated with light intensity. Baseline and 15N-nitrate amended benthic flux core incubations were employed to quantify benthic fluxes and to investigate the impact of BMA on sediment water exchange under nitrogen (N)-limited and N-replete conditions. Unamended sediments exhibited tight coupling between GOP and respiration and served as a sink for water column dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and a source of silicate and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). The BMA response to the N addition indicated sequential nutrient limitation, with N limitation followed by silicate limitation. In diel (light–dark) incubations, biological assimilation accounted for 83% to 150% of the nitrate uptake, while denitrification (DNF) and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) accounted for <7%; in contrast, under dark conditions, DNF and DNRA accounted for >40% of the NO3 uptake. The N addition shifted the metabolic status of the sediments from a balance of autotrophy and heterotrophy to net autotrophy under diel conditions, and the sediments served as a sink for water column DIN, silicate, and DIC but became a source of DOC, suggesting that the increased BMA production was decoupled from sediment bacterial consumption of DOC.

Keywords

Benthic microalgae Dissolved organic carbon Sediment fluxes Nutrients 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank M. Erickson, M. Price, and N. Weston for assistance in the field and in the laboratory; and I. Anderson, N. Weston, T. Hollibaugh, E. Howard, R. Jahnke and two anonymous reviewers for providing comments that substantially improved this paper. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Georgia Coastal Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research Program (OCE 99-82133 and OCE 06-20959).

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • William P. Porubsky
    • 1
  • Liliana E. Velasquez
    • 1
  • Samantha B. Joye
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Marine SciencesThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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