Effect of nutrient enrichment on growth and photosynthesis of the zooxanthellate coral Stylophora pistillata
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The effect of prolonged (9 week) nutrient enrichment on the growth and photosynthetic rates of the zooxanthellate coral Stylophora pistillata was investigated. The main questions were: (1) what is the exposure time needed to induce measurable change in growth rate? (2) which are the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus required to cause changes in these rates? (3) what is the recovery potential of the corals after the nutrient stress? For this purpose, three tanks (N, P, NP) were enriched with ammonium (N), phosphorus (P) or both nutrients (NP), respectively. A fourth tank (C) served as a control. The growth of 40 nubbins (10 in each tank) was monitored during four periods: period 1 (nutrient-poor conditions), period 2 (10 μm NH4 and/or 2 μm PO4 enrichment), period 3 (20 μm NH4 and/or 2 μm PO4) and period 4 (nutrient-poor conditions). Period 4 was performed to study the recovery potential of corals after a nutrient stress. During period 1, growth rates remained constant in all tanks. In the P tank, growth rates declined during the two enrichment periods, with a total decrease of 60% by the end of period 3. In the N tank, growth rates remained nearly constant during period 2 but decreased in period 3 (60% decrease). In the NP tank, 50% and 25% decreases were observed during periods 2 and 3. At the end of the recovery period, a regain in growth rate was observed in the N and NP tanks (35 and 30% increase, respectively, compared with the rates measured at the end of period 3) and growth rates returned to 60% of the initial rates. By contrast, in the P tank, there was no regain in growth and a further decrease of 5% was observed. Rates of photosynthesis were often higher during the enriched than the nutrient-poor period (up to 150% increase). Corals with the highest percent increases in maximal gross photosynthetic rate (P g max ) had the smallest decreases in growth rate due to nutrient enrichment. In conclusion, high ammonium (20 μm) and relatively low phosphorus concentrations (2 μm) are required to induce a significant decrease in coral growth rate. The largest reduction was observed with both ammonium and phosphorus enrichment. The decrease in growth rate was rapid following nutrient enrichment, since a 10% decrease or more could be observed after the first week of treatment.
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