Oxygen diffusion and dark respiration in aquatic macrophytes


B. K. Sorrell, Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, P.O. Box 921, Albury, N.S.W. 2640, Australia.


Abstract. The supply of oxygen to respiring shoot tissue was investigated for three submerged macrophytes (Potamogeton crispus L., Egeria densa Planch, and Myriophyllum triphyllum Orchard). For all species, the response of oxygen uptake rates to the external O2 concentration was a rectangular hyperbola over the range 0–5.0 × 10−3m3 m−3. However, the response pattern for material with water-infiltrated lacunar airspaces was non-hyperbolic over this range. The change in response was interpreted as an increased substrate (O2) limitation, resulting from lower radial diffusion rates within the infiltrated material. Neither the uninfiltrated nor the infiltrated responses obeyed the linear and logarithmic formulae of the type observed for submerged macrophytes by earlier authors. These results suggest that the responses observed are affected by factors such as water velocity, internal restrictions to diffusion and the range of oxygen tensions investigated. Therefore, it is unlikely that one response formula can adequately account for the effects of oxygen concentration on submerged macrophyte oxygen uptake. The lacunar airspaces also represent a possible oxygen source for dark respiration. The consumption of oxygen from the airspaces was investigated by displacing the gas from the lacunae and measuring the subsequent increase in the rate of oxygen assimilation from the external liquid. Approximately 30% of the oxygen consumed by E. densa and P. crispus, and more than 40% of that consumed by M. triphyllum, was derived from the lacunar system. This O2 supply is a consequence of the higher oxygen concentration in the lacunae than in the external medium, due to the low solubility of oxygen in water. Storage of photosynthetically-produced oxygen in the lacunae could not be identified during a light/dark transient, due to rate changes caused by the effects of light on the respiratory metabolism. However, O2 partial pressure gradients artificially set up between the lacunae and water equilibrated within an hour, suggesting that excess oxygen would be lost to the water within this time.