Fine-scale mapping of land-derived nitrogen in coral reefs by d15N in macroalgae

Umezawa, Yu, Toshihiro Miyajima, Masumi Yamamuro, Hajime Kayanne, Isao Koike

Limnol. Oceanogr., 47(5), 2002, 1405-1416 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2002.47.5.1405

ABSTRACT: We measured the C/N ratio and δ15N values of two brown macroalgae — Padina spp. and Dictyota sp., which are distributed over all the subtropical fringing reefs of the Ryukyu Islands, Japan— to evaluate the feasibility of these algae as indicators of the terrestrial nitrogen load to the reef. The correlations between the distance from the shoreline and algal C/N ratio and surrounding NO concentrations were not clear, although their average values among the reefs seemed to indicate differences in nitrogen loadings from the land. The δ15N values of these algae, on the other hand, linearly or curvilinearly decreased from 18‰ to 12‰ with increasing distance from the shoreline, indicating the difference in nitrogen sources available to macroalgae. The slope of the decline among eight study areas had different characters, which seemed to depend on the residence time of reef seawater and the fluxes of terrestrial nitrogen. Using δ15N values of brown algae as an indicator, we confirmed that primary producers, such as macroalgae on the reefs, assimilated land-derived nitrogen and successfully evaluated time-integrated effects of terrestrial nitrogen on coral reef algae, which had been missed by conventional monitoring of the water column nutrients.

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