Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1223–1233 | Cite as

Marine Macrophyte Detritus and Degradation: the Role of Intraspecific Genetic Variation

  • Susan L. Williams
  • Jessica M. Abbott
  • Laura K. Reynolds
  • John J. Stachowicz


Intraspecific genetic diversity influences the primary production and biomass of coastal marine foundation plants. The majority of their primary production ends up as detritus, yet the relationship between their intraspecific genetic diversity and detritus-based functions has rarely been considered. We addressed the relationship between these functions (detritus standing stock, degradation, sediment ammonium production) and genotypic diversity (richness, evenness, relatedness) in eelgrass (Zostera marina L.), a widely distributed coastal foundation plant, grown in the field at different levels of genotypic richness and relatedness. The functions were largely insensitive to the genotypic diversity, density, and biomass of the living plants in a plot, which suggests that changes in eelgrass genotypic diversity have minimal effects on these important functions and their consequences ranging from trophic support to carbon sequestration. Instead, detritus-based functions are perhaps more related to the sediment environment, the genotypic composition of the detritus itself, and macro- and microscopic detritus consumers.


Ammonification Detritus Decomposition Eelgrass Genotypes Marine macrophyte 



Genotyping was carried out in the laboratory of R.K. Grosberg. We thank the following for field and laboratory assistance: J. Blaze, B. Cameron, K. Chan, J. Chow, K. DuBois, N. Kollars, K. Griffith, E. Huynh, M. Luerig, N. Nichols, J. Toy, and A. R. Hughes. We thank N. Marbà, R. Howarth, A.R. Hughes, and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

Funding Information

This research was supported by NSF grant OCE-12-34345 to J.J.S., R.K. Grosberg, and S.L.W. and an IGERT Reach fellowship (DGE #0801430) to J.M.A.

Supplementary material

12237_2017_360_MOESM1_ESM.docx (96 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 96 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan L. Williams
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jessica M. Abbott
    • 1
    • 3
  • Laura K. Reynolds
    • 2
    • 4
  • John J. Stachowicz
    • 2
  1. 1.Bodega Marine LaboratoryUniversity of California—DavisBodega BayUSA
  2. 2.Department of Evolution and EcologyUniversity of California—DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Wildlife StudiesArcataUSA
  4. 4.Soil and Water Sciences DepartmentUniversity of FloridaGainsvilleUSA

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