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Keywords:

  • Epiphyte load;
  • Mediterranean Sea;
  • nitrogen;
  • phosphorus;
  • Posidonia oceanica;
  • seagrass;
  • shoot size;
  • spatial scales

Abstract

Knowledge of patterns of spatial variability of vegetative development, epiphyte load and nutrient availability in seagrass meadows is essential for the adequate design of research and environmental monitoring programmes. Differences in shoot size, epiphyte load and nutrient content of leaves and epiphytes of the Mediterranean endemic seagrass Posidonia oceanica at spatial scales ranging from metres to hundreds of metres are evaluated using a hierarchical nested sampling design. The size and epiphyte load of P. oceanica shoots and the nitrogen and phosphorus content of leaves and epiphytes were different in most of the spatial scales considered. Sampling efforts concentrated at the metre scale incorporated most of the variability in size, epiphyte load and nutrient content of the leaves and epiphytes of P. oceanica shoots. Epiphyte load showed no correlation with nutrient content in the epiphytes or in the leaves. However, epiphyte load and shoot size were negatively correlated, which suggests that light penetration in the canopy may be a main determinant of epiphyte load.