Seagrass derived organic matter influences biogeochemistry, microbial communities, and seedling biomass partitioning in seagrass sediments

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Journal Article
Plant and Soil, 2016, 400 (1-2), pp. 133 - 146
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© 2015, Springer International Publishing Switzerland. Aims: Seedling establishment is a crucial life history stage in seagrasses, yet factors that affect seedling health are poorly characterized. We investigated if organic matter (OM) additions to sediments provided nutritional benefits for seagrass seedlings through microbial degradation. Methods: We tested the effects of sedimentary OM additions on Posidonia australis seedlings growing in tank cultures. We focussed on sediment biogeochemical processes and microbial communities that may impact seedling growth and physiology. Results: Enrichment of sediments with OM changed microbial community composition (DNA-ARISA) and a significant increase in hydrolytic enzyme expression. Total seedling biomass did not differ between OM treatments, but above:belowground biomass increased with OM enrichment. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentration of seagrass leaves was lower with increasing OM. Conclusions: Seagrass derived OM has been considered a refractory store of carbon, yet here we show its deposition into sediments significantly alters belowground conditions. Remineralization of the OM changes both physical and chemical nature of sediments that leads to greater biochemical activity, change in microbial communities and greater investment into above ground photosynthetic biomass. The presence of OM may assist seagrass seedling survival during early development by enhancing root branching and stability in sediments, but is unlikely to provide nutritional benefits.
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