, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 138–148 | Cite as

Physiological responses of transplants of the freshwater angiosperm Vallisneria americana along a salinity gradient in the Caloosahatchee Estuary (Southwestern Florida)

  • George P. Kraemer
  • Robert H. Chamberlain
  • Peter H. Doering
  • Alan D. Steinman
  • M. Dennis Hanisak


Fluctuations in freshwater input may affect the physiology and survival of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) occurring in oligoaline to mesohaline estuarine regions. Controls on the distribution of the freshwater angiosperm Vallisneria americana, were investigated by transplanting ramets. Pots (3.8-1) containing ramets were distributed among four sites (upstream site [least saline], donor site, near downstream site, and far downstream site [most saline]) in the Caloosahatchee Estuary (Southwest Florida) during wet (May–August) and dry (October–February) seasons. During 2–4 mo of each season, physiological indicators were monitored, including photosynthesis, glutamine synthetase activity, and protein content in shoots, and carbohydrates and total nitrogen and carbon in shoot and subterranean tissues. Where the physical environment (light or salinity) was suboptimal, all physiological indices, except photosynthetic rate, showed similar stress responses, which ranged from a slow decline to a rapid drop in physiological function. Levels of soluble carbohydrates decreased in response to unfavorable conditions more rapidly than did insoluble carbohydrates. Shoot protein of V. americana declined prior to transplant death, suggesting that measuring protein content may provide a rapid assessment of physiological health. V. americana transplants at the low-salinity upstream site died during both wet and dry season experiments, likely in response to light limitation and/or partial burial by sediments. At the far downstream site, death occurred within 2–4 wk, and was attributable to elevated salinities (>ca. 15‰). Comparison of physiological responses with salinity and light regimes at the donor and near downstream sites suggest that light may ameliorate salinity stress. This study demonstrates that V. americana, nominally classed as a freshwater macrophyte, is capable of a remarkable degree of halotolerance.


Soluble Carbohydrate Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Downstream Site South Florida Water Management District Insoluble Carbohydrate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Adams, J. B. and G. C. Bate. 1994. The ecological implications of tolerance to salinity by Ruppia cirrhosa (Petagna) Grande and Zostera capensis Setchell. Botanica Marina 37:449–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appenroth, K. J. and H. Augsten. 1987. An improvement of protein determination in plant tissues with the dye-binding method according to Bradford. Biochemie und Physiologie der Pflanzen 182:85–89.Google Scholar
  3. Barko, J. W., R. M. Smart, and D. G. McFarland. 1982. Interactive effects of environmental conditions on the growth of submersed aquatic macrophytes. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 6: 199–209.Google Scholar
  4. Bourn, W. S. 1932. Sea-water tolerance of Vallisneria spiralis L. and Potamogeton foliosus Raf. Contributions of the Boyce Thompson Institute 6:303–308.Google Scholar
  5. Carter, V. and N. B. Rybicki. 1990. Light attenuation and submersed macrophyte distribution in the tidal Potomac River and estuary. Estuaries 13:441–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carter, V., N. B. Rybicki, and M. Turtora. 1996. Effect of increased photon irradiance on the growth of Vallisneria americana in the tidal Potomac River. Aquatic Botany 54:337–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carter, V., N. B. Rybicki, J. N. Landwehr, and M. Turtora. 1994. Role of weather and water quality in population dynamics of submersed macrophytes in the tidal Potomac River. Estuaries 17:417–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dawes, C. J., M. Chan, R. Chinn, E. W. Koch, A. Lazar, and D. Tomasko. 1987. Proximate composition, photosynthesis and respiratory responses of the seagrass Halophila engelmanii from Florida. Aquatic Botany 27:195–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Day, J. W., C. A. S. Hall, W. M. Kemp, and A. Yáñez-Arancibia. 1989. Estuarine Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Haller, W. T., D. L. Sutton, and W. C. Barlowe. 1974. Effects of salinity on growth of several aquatic macrophytes. Ecology 55:891–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kenworthy, W. J., J. C. Zieman, and G. W. Thayer. 1982. Evidence for the influence of seagrasses on the benthic nitrogen cycle in a coastal plain estuary near Beaufort, North Carolina (USA). Oecologia 54:152–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kerr, E. A. and S. Strother. 1985. Effects of irradiance, temperature and salinity on photosynthesis of Zostera muelleri. Aquatic Botany 23:177–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kozlowski, T. T. 1984. Flooding and Plant Growth. Academic Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  14. Knox, G. A. 1986. Estuarine Ecosystems: A Systems Approach. Volume I. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.Google Scholar
  15. Kraemer, G. P. and R. S. Alberte. 1995. Impact of daily photosynthetic period on protein synthesis and carbohydrate stores in Zostera marina L. (eelgrass) roots: Implications for survival in light-limited environments. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 185:191–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kraemer, G. P., L. Mazzella, and R. S. Alberte. 1997. Nitrogen assimilation and partitioning in the Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica. Marine Ecology, Publication of the Stazione Zoological di Napoli. 18(2):175–188.Google Scholar
  17. Lazar, A. C. and C. J. Dawes. 1991. A seasonal study of the seagrass Ruppia maritima L. in Tampa Bay, Florida. Organic constituents and tolerances to salinity and temperature. Botanica Marina 34:265–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lin, C. C. and C. H. Kao. 1996. Disturbed ammonium assimilation is associated with growth inhibition of roots in rice seedlings caused by NaCl. Plant Growth Regulators 18:233–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Macler, B. A. 1988. Salinity effects on photosynthesis, carbon allocation, and nitrogen assimilation in the red alga Gelidium coulteri. Plant Physiology 88:690–694.Google Scholar
  20. Montague, C. L. and J. A. Ley. 1993. A possible effect of salinity fluctuation on abundance of benthic vegetation and associated fauna in northeastern Florida Bay. Estuaries 16:703–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mehrer, I. and H. Mohr. 1989. Ammonium toxicity: Description of the syndrome in Sinapis alba and the search for its causation. Physiologia Plantarum 77:545–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pregnall, A. M., R. D. Smith, and R. S. Alberte. 1987. Glutamine synthetase activity and free amino acid pools of eelgrass (Zostera marina) roots. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 106:211–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pulich, W. M. 1986. Variations in leaf soluble amino acids and ammonium content in subtropical seagrasses related to salinity stress. Plant Physiology 80:283–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rybicki, N. B. and V. Carter. 1986. Effect of sediment depth and sediment type on the survival of Vallisneria americana Michx. grown, from tubers. Aquatic Botany 24:233–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Turpin, D. H. 1991. Effects of inorganic N availability on algal photosynthesis and carbon metabolism. Journal of Phycology 27: 14–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Turpin, D. H., G. C. Vanlerberghe, A. M. Amory, and R. D. Guy. 1991. The inorganic carbon requirements for nitrogen assimilation. Canadian Journal of Botany 69:1139–1145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Twilley, R. R. and J. W. Barko. 1990. The growth of submersed macrophytes under experimental salinity and light conditions. Estuaries 13:311–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. United States National Ocean Service. 1996. High and low water prediction, East Coast of North and South America. United States National Ocean Service, Silver Springs, Maryland.Google Scholar
  29. Walker, D. I. and A. J. McComb. 1990. Salinity response of the seagrass Amphibolis antarctica (Labill.) Sonder et Aschers: An experimental validation of field results. Aquatic Botany 36:359–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Yemm, E. W. and A. J. Willis. 1954. The estimation of carbohydrates in plant extracts by anthrone. Biochemical Journal 57: 508–514.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • George P. Kraemer
    • 1
  • Robert H. Chamberlain
    • 2
  • Peter H. Doering
    • 2
  • Alan D. Steinman
    • 2
  • M. Dennis Hanisak
    • 1
  1. 1.Harbor Branch Oceanographic InstitutionFort Pierce
  2. 2.Ecosystem Restoration ProjectSouth Florida Water Management DistrictWest Palm Beach

Personalised recommendations