, Volume 440, Issue 1–3, pp 299–305 | Cite as

Influence of light and nitrogen on the phlorotannin content of the brown seaweeds Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus

  • Henrik Pavia
  • Gunilla B. Toth


Phlorotannins, C-based defence compounds in brown seaweeds, show a high degree of spatial and temporal variation within seaweed species. One important model explaining this variation is the Carbon Nutrient Balance Model (CNBM), which states that the relative supply of carbon and limiting nutrients will determine the level of defence compounds in plants. Nitrogen is often considered to be the limiting nutrient for marine macroalgal growth and the CNBM thus predicts that when the carbon:nitrogen ratio is high, photosynthetically fixed carbon will be allocated to production of phlorotannins. In the present study, we evaluated the effects of light (i.e. carbon) and nitrogen on the phlorotannin content of two intertidal brown seaweeds, Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus. This was done in an observational field study, as well as in a manipulative experiment where plants from habitats with different light regimes were subjected to different nitrogen and light treatments, and their phlorotannin content was measured after 14 days. The results showed that there was a negative relationship between tissue nitrogen and phlorotannin content in natural populations of F. vesiculosus, but not in A. nodosum. In the short term, the phlorotannin content in both algal species was not affected by changes in nitrogen availability. Exposure to sunlight had a positive effect on the phlorotannin content in natural populations of both algal species but, in the manipulative experiment, only F. vesiculosus showed a rapid response to changes in light intensities. Plants subjected to sunlight contained higher phlorotannin content than shaded plants. In conclusion, the results imply that nitrogen availability explains some of the natural variation in the phlorotannin content of F. vesiculosus, but the light environment has greater importance than nitrogen availability in predicting the phlorotannin content of each species.

Ascophyllum Fucus CNBM light nitrogen phlorotannins 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henrik Pavia
  • Gunilla B. Toth

There are no affiliations available

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