• estuary;
  • eutrophication;
  • macroalgae;
  • nitrogen storage;
  • nutrient pulses;
  • nutrient status;
  • tissue nutrients;
  • Ulva;
  • uptake

We quantified the effects of initial macroalgal tissue nitrogen (N) status (depleted and enriched) and varying pulses of nitrate (NO3) concentration on uptake and storage of nitrogen in Ulva intestinalis L. and Ulva expansa (Setch.) Setch. et N. L. Gardner using mesocosms modeling shallow coastal estuaries in Mediterranean climates. Uptake of NO3 (μmol · g dry weight [dwt]−1 · h−1) was measured as loss from the water after 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, and 24 h and storage as total tissue nitrogen (% dwt) and nitrate (ppm). Both species of algae exhibited a high affinity for NO3 across all N pulses and initial tissue contents. There was greater NO3 removal from the water for depleted than enriched algae across all time intervals. In the low-N-pulse treatment, U. intestinalis and U. expansa removed all measurable NO3 within 8 and 12 h, respectively, and in the medium and high treatments, removal was high and then decreased over time. Maximum mean uptake rates of nitrate were greater for U. expansa (∼300 μmol · g dwt−1 · h−1) than U. intestinalis (∼100 μmol · g dwt−1 · h−1); however, uptake rates were highly variable over time. Overall, U. expansa uptake rates were double those of U. intestinalis. Maximum tissue NO3 for U. expansa was >1,000 ppm, five times that of U. intestinalis, suggesting that U. expansa has a greater storage capacity in this cellular pool. These results showed that opportunistic green algae with differing tissue nutrient histories were able to efficiently remove nitrate from the water across a wide range of N pulses; thus, both are highly adapted to proliferate in estuarine environments with pulsed nutrient supplies.