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Negative effects of stress-resistant drift algae and high temperature on a small ephemeral seagrass species
Holmer, M.; Wirachwong, P.; Thomsen, M.S. (2011). Negative effects of stress-resistant drift algae and high temperature on a small ephemeral seagrass species. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 158(2): 297-309.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Holmer, M.
  • Wirachwong, P.
  • Thomsen, M.S.

    Seagrasses are threatened by multiple anthropogenic stressors, such as accumulating drift algae and increasing temperatures (associated with eutrophication and global warming, respectively). However, few seagrass experiments have examined whether exposure to multiple stressors causes antagonistic, additive, or synergistic effects, and this has limited our ability to predict the future health status of seagrass beds. We conducted a laboratory experiment to test whether abundance of Gracilaria comosa (3 levels; 0, 1.2, and 3.4 kg WW m-2), an algae that is resistant to wide environmental fluctuations (e.g. light, temperature, salinity, and oxygen levels), has negative effects on the small ephemeral seagrass, Halophila ovalis and whether the effects are exacerbated by high temperature (3 levels; 20, 25, and 30°C). We found an additive negative effect of the two stressors when tested simultaneously on 14 seagrass performance measures, with most data variability explained by the drift algae. For the individual plant performance measures (above- and below-ground growth and mortality, leaf area, internode distance, and root length and root volume), we found 5 additive effects, 4 synergistic effects, and 5 effects that were significant only for drift algae. We also documented a significant additive effect of drift algae and temperature on dissolved porewater sulphide (DS). A follow-up correlation analysis between DS and the 14 plant performance measures revealed significant or near-significant linear correlations on 9 of these responses (above- and below-ground growth, leaf area and weight, leaf mortality, and internode distance). In summary, we showed (a) that a stress-resistant drift algae can have strong negative effects on a small ephemeral seagrass, (b) this negative effect can increase both additively and synergistically with increasing temperature depending on performance measure, and (c) the negative effects may be mediated by a build-up of porewater DS. An implication of our findings is that resource managers aiming to preserve healthy seagrass beds in an almost certain future warmer world should increase efforts to keep drift algae populations low.

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