Short-term fate of intertidal microphytobenthos carbon under enhanced nutrient availability : a .sup.13C pulse-chase experiment

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Reikenberg, PM, Oakes, JM & Eyre, BD 2018, 'Short-term fate of intertidal microphytobenthos carbon under enhanced nutrient availability : a .sup.13C pulse-chase experiment', Biogeosciences, vol. 15, no. 9, pp. 2873-2889.

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Shallow coastal waters in many regions are subject to nutrient enrichment. Microphytobenthos (MPB) can account for much of the carbon (C) fixation in these environments, depending on the depth of the water column, but the effect of enhanced nutrient availability on the processing and fate of MPB-derived C (MPB-C) is relatively unknown. In this study, MPB was labeled (stable isotope enrichment) in situ using 13C-sodium bicarbonate. The processing and fate of the newly fixed MPB-C was then traced using ex situ incubations over 3.5 days under different concentrations of nutrients (NH+4 and PO3−4 : ambient, 2× ambient, 5× ambient, and 10× ambient). After 3.5 days, sediments incubated with increased nutrient concentrations (amended treatments) had increased loss of 13C from sediment organic matter (OM) as a portion of initial uptake (95 % remaining in ambient vs. 79–93 % for amended treatments) and less 13C in MPB (52 % ambient, 26–49 % amended), most likely reflecting increased turnover of MPB-derived C supporting increased production of extracellular enzymes and storage products. Loss of MPBderived C to the water column via dissolved organic C (DOC) was minimal regardless of treatment (0.4–0.6 %). Loss due to respiration was more substantial, with effluxes of dissolved inorganic C (DIC) increasing with additional nutrient availability (4 % ambient, 6.6–19.8 % amended). These shifts resulted in a decreased turnover time for algal C (419 days ambient, 134–199 days amended). This suggests that nutrient enrichment of estuaries may ultimately lead to decreased retention of carbon within MPB-dominated sediments.

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