Comparison of dinitrogen fixation rates in two subtropical seagrass communities

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Carlson-Perret, NL, Erler, DV & Eyre, BD 2019, 'Comparison of dinitrogen fixation rates in two subtropical seagrass communities', Marine Chemistry, vol. 209, pp. 62-69.

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Seagrass morphology varies greatly between species and can impact their nitrogen(N) cycling capacity, including dinitrogen (N2) fixation. We used a 15N—N2 stable isotope technique to measure N2 fixation rates in different zones of two morphologically diverse seagrass communities, Zostera muelleri and Halophila ovalisin Moreton Bay, Australia. Isotope label additions were made to both the surface and rhizosphere of sediment cores containing whole plants over an artificial diurnal cycle. In both species the highest rates of N2 fixation were found in the leaves (including epiphytes) in the light with areal leaf related N2 fixation rates higher in the Z. muelleri (46 ± 26 μmol N2 m−2 h−1) community compared to H. ovalis(11 ± 7.2 μmol N2 m−2 h−1). There was a switch in the location of N2 fixation from the leaves to the sediments in the dark in the Z. muelleri community which was not observed in H. ovalis. The change in the active site of N2 fixation in the Z. muellericommunity is likely related to the reduction in oxygen supply and associated increase in sulphate reducing bacterial activity at night. Overall the Z. muellericommunity fixed N2 at ~3 times (~75 μmol N m−2 h−1) the rate of H. ovalis(~25 μmol N m−2 h−1). The results of this study illustrate how plant morphology, and its associated influence on sediment biogeochemistry, can regulate N2 fixation rates in seagrass communities.

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