Shade-induced response and recovery of the seagrass Posidonia sinuosa

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Journal Article
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2009, 370 (1-2), pp. 89 - 103
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The effect of shading on the seagrass Posidonia sinuosa Cambridge et Kuo was investigated to identify mechanisms that prolong its survival during periods of low light and permit its subsequent recovery. We also tested whether the responses were consistent in plants growing at different depths. Shade treatments were low (LS; 70 - 100% of ambient Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density), medium (MS; 12 - 39%) and heavy (HS; 5 - 4%) at the shallow (3 - 4 m) site, whilst the deep (7 - 8 m) site had no HS treatment. HS at the shallow and MS at the deep site were below minimum light requirements (MLR) for the long-term survival of P. sinuosa. Physiological, morphological and growth attributes were repeatedly measured during 198 d of shade treatments and a subsequent 384 d recovery period at ambient PPFD. Shoot density declined by 82% within 105 d under HS treatment, though 6% of shoots remained after 198 d. We estimate that complete shoot loss in HS would have taken 2 years. Rhizome sugar concentrations declined to 32 - 52% of the controls at the end of the most severe shading treatments but after shoot loss, sugar concentrations declined more slowly or increased, suggesting a return to positive carbon balance. In the treatments below MLR, shading induced changes in physiological, morphological and growth characteristics, including reduced leaf length and width, reduced δ13C and photosynthetic adaptation to low light (increased α, reduced Ek and ETRmax), though not consistently. After removal of shading, photosynthetic characteristics became more typical of high light adaptation, possibly induced by greater light penetration through the thinned canopy, including reversal of the changes in α, Ek and ETRmax and induction of non-photochemical quenching. Carbohydrate concentrations increased to ambient concentrations within 115 d at ambient PPFD. Recovery of shoot density was slow, remaining significantly reduced in the MS and HS treatments after 384 d recovery. Shoot density at the end of shading is an important determinant of the rate seagrass meadows will recover and we estimated that the moderately and heavily shaded meadows would require 3.5 to 5 years to recover. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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