Short-term responses of coral reef microphytobenthic communities to inorganic nutrient loading

Dizon, Romeo M., Helen T. Yap

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(5), 1999, 1259-1267 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.5.1259

ABSTRACT: The responses of coral reef flat microphytobenthos to short-term exposure to elevated levels of inorganic nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) were investigated in 1994 and 1995. Sand samples collected from the reef flat were maintained over 7 d in triplicate cultures with N-enriched (100 µM NO3), P-enriched (10 µM PO4), and ambient seawater. A fourth experiment used a treatment of combined N and P enrichment. The sediment samples were assessed for chlorophyll a (Chl a) content and photosynthesis-irradiance (P-I) responses. P-I curves, constructed from area-and Chl a-specific metabolic rates, showed consistently higher maximal rates in the nutrient enriched samples. Sediments exposed to enhanced levels of N exhibited the highest Chl a content while both N- and P-enriched samples showed increased photosynthetic yield. Very little depletion of nutrients in the water column was detected over time in the batch cultures except in the N:P-enriched treatments where nutrient values dropped to near-ambient levels. Results from these experiments point to N and P colimitation in tropical carbonate sediments.

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