Leaching of dissolved organic matter from seagrass leaf litter and its biogeochemical implications

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Journal Article
Acta Oceanologica Sinica, 2018, 37 (8), pp. 84 - 90
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© 2018, The Chinese Society of Oceanography and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) represents a significant source of nutrients that supports the microbial-based food web in seagrass ecosystems. However, there is little information on how the various fractions of DOM from seagrass leaves contributed to the coastal biogeochemical cycles. To address this gap, we carried out a 30-day laboratory chamber experiment on tropical seagrasses Thalassia hemprichii and Enhalus acoroides. After 30 days of incubation, on average 22% carbon (C), 70% nitrogen (N) and 38% phosphorus (P) of these two species of seagrass leaf litter was released. The average leached dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) of these two species of seagrass leaf litter accounted for 55%, 95% and 65% of the total C, N and P lost, respectively. In the absence of microbes, about 75% of the total amount of DOC, monosaccharides (MCHO), DON and DOP were quickly released via leaching from both seagrass species in the first 9 days. Subsequently, little DOM was released during the remainder of the experiment. The leaching rates of DOC, DON and DOP were approximately 110, 40 and 0.70 µmol/(g·d). Leaching rates of DOM were attributed to the nonstructural carbohydrates and other labile organic matter within the seagrass leaf. Thalassia hemprichii leached more DOC, DOP and MCHO than E. acoroides. In contrast, E. acoroides leached higher concentrations of DON than T. hemprichii, with the overall leachate also having a higher DON: DOP ratio. These results indicate that there is an overall higher amount of DOM leachate from T. hemprichii than that of E. acoroides that is available to the seagrass ecosystem. According to the logarithmic model for DOM release and the in situ leaf litter production (the Xincun Bay, South China Sea), the seagrass leaf litter of these two seagrass species could release approximately 4×103 mol/d DOC, 1.4×103 mol/d DON and 25 mol/d DOP into the seawater. In addition to providing readily available nutrients for the microbial food web, the remaining particulate organic matter (POM) from the litter would also enter microbial remineralization processes. What is not remineralized from either DOM or POM fractions has potential to contribute to the permanent carbon stocks.
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