Effects of CO 2 enrichment on photosynthesis, growth, and nitrogen metabolism of the seagrass Zostera noltii



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum Volume 5, Issue 20, 4734, Article first published online: 26 October 2015

  • Funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (SFRH/BD/21487/2005), cofunded by POCI 2010 and FSE.


Ana Alexandre, Marine Plant Ecology Research Group, CCMAR – Centre of Marine Sciences, Universidade do Algarve, Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal. Tel: +351 289 800900; Fax: +351 289 800069; E-mail: aalexandre@ualg.pt


Seagrass ecosystems are expected to benefit from the global increase in CO 2 in the ocean because the photosynthetic rate of these plants may be Ci-limited at the current CO 2 level. As well, it is expected that lower external pH will facilitate the nitrate uptake of seagrasses if nitrate is cotransported with H+ across the membrane as in terrestrial plants. Here, we investigate the effects of CO 2 enrichment on both carbon and nitrogen metabolism of the seagrass Zostera noltii in a mesocosm experiment where plants were exposed for 5 months to two experimental CO 2 concentrations (360 and 700 ppm). Both the maximum photosynthetic rate (Pm) and photosynthetic efficiency (α) were higher (1.3- and 4.1-fold, respectively) in plants exposed to CO 2-enriched conditions. On the other hand, no significant effects of CO 2 enrichment on leaf growth rates were observed, probably due to nitrogen limitation as revealed by the low nitrogen content of leaves. The leaf ammonium uptake rate and glutamine synthetase activity were not significantly affected by increased CO 2 concentrations. On the other hand, the leaf nitrate uptake rate of plants exposed to CO 2-enriched conditions was fourfold lower than the uptake of plants exposed to current CO 2 level, suggesting that in the seagrass Z. noltii nitrate is not cotransported with H+ as in terrestrial plants. In contrast, the activity of nitrate reductase was threefold higher in plant leaves grown at high-CO 2 concentrations. Our results suggest that the global effects of CO 2 on seagrass production may be spatially heterogeneous and depend on the specific nitrogen availability of each system. Under a CO 2 increase scenario, the natural levels of nutrients will probably become limiting for Z. noltii. This potential limitation becomes more relevant because the expected positive effect of CO 2 increase on nitrate uptake rate was not confirmed.