Dynamics of environmental conditions during the decline of a Cymodocea nodosa meadow

Mirjana Najdek, Marino Korlevic, Paolo Paliaga, Marsej Markovski, Ingrid Ivancic, Ljiljana Ivesa, Igor Felja, Gerhard J. Herndl

The dynamics of the physicochemical and biological parameters were followed during the decline of a Cymodocea nodosa meadow in the northern Adriatic Sea from July 2017 to October 2018. During the regular growth of C. nodosa from July 2017 to March 2018, the species successfully adapted to the changes in environmental conditions and prevented H2S accumulation by its reoxidation, supplying the sediment with O-2 from the water column and/or leaf photosynthesis. The C. nodosa decline was most likely triggered in April 2018 when light availability to the plant was drastically reduced due to increased seawater turbidity that resulted from increased terrigenous input, indicated by a decrease in salinity accompanied with a substantial increase in particulate matter concentration, combined with resuspension of sediment and elevated autotrophic biomass. Light reduction impaired photosynthesis of C. nodosa and the oxidation capability of belowground tissue. Simultaneously, a depletion of oxygen due to intense oxidation of H2S occurred in the sediment, thus creating anoxic conditions in most of the rooted areas. These linked negative effects on the plant performance caused an accumulation of H2S in the sediments of the C. nodosa meadow. During the decay of aboveground and belowground tissues, culminating in August 2018, high concentrations of H2S were reached and accumulated in the sediment as well as in bottom waters. The influx of oxygenated waters in September 2018 led to the re-establishment of H-2 oxidation in the sediment and remainder of the belowground tissue. Our results indicate that if disturbances of environmental conditions, particularly those compromising the light availability, take place during the recruitment phase of plant growth when metabolic needs are at a maximum and stored reserves minimal, a sudden and drastic decline of the sea-grass meadow occurs.

Functional and Evolutionary Ecology
External organisation(s)
Institute Ruder Boskovic (RBI), Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, University of Zagreb, Utrecht University
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106021 Marine biology
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