• Alkaline phosphatase;
  • biomarker;
  • coastal eutrophication;
  • phosphorus;
  • Posidonia oceanica;
  • seagrass


Eutrophication is one of the most relevant man-induced changes occurring in coastal waters. The identification and assessment of specific responses to eutrophication in seagrasses can provide a useful tool for the detection of changes in the water quality in coastal zones, given the wide range of distribution of these organisms. In this study, we combine a correlational (across-sites comparison) and a manipulative (fertilization experiment) approach to evaluate the usefulness and potential of alkaline phosphatase activity (APA) in the endemic Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica as an eutrophication biomarker. Our results showed that APA decreases promptly following nutrient additions, the response being maintained except during the winter period. APA also varies across natural meadows under different levels of nutrient discharges at scales relevant for monitoring purposes. AP activity seems to be an optimal ‘physiological biomarker’ that responds promptly and reliably to a pulse of eutrophication exposure. However, other considerations, such as the seasonality (the response disappears in winter), suggest its use with some caution and, as far as possible, as a complement of other bio-indicators.