Meristematic oxygen variability in eelgrass (Zostera marina)

Greve, Tina Maria, Jens Borum, Ole Pedersen

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(1), 2003, 210-216 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.1.0210

ABSTRACT: We examined the variability in oxygen content of meristematic tissues in eelgrass in order to evaluate its potential role in events of sudden mass mortality within eelgrass beds. Oxygen content within intact eelgrass plants could be described by use of microelectrode techniques at high temporal and spatial resolution in the laboratory and in the field. Under both situations, the meristematic oxygen content was highly variable, ranging from 0 to 200% of air saturation depending on environmental conditions. Changes from steady-state maximum oxygen content to steady-state minimum content occurred within 30 min following experimental manipulation. The internal oxygen content exceeded water column oxygen concentration in the light and was intimately coupled to changes in irradiance because of the photosynthetic oxygen release within the leaves. The photosynthetically produced pool of oxygen could, however, not function as an efficient storage to support nighttime respiration. In the dark, oxygen was primarily supplied from the water column via diffusion into leaves, and the meristem quickly turned anoxic if the water column was anoxic. Experimental reduction of oxygen conditions immediately around the basal plant meristem had no major effect on internal oxygen content. High temperatures had a dramatic effect on the internal oxygen balance of eelgrass. Increasing temperature stimulated plant respiration more than photosynthesis, and the meristem went anoxic, even in the light, at water temperatures above 30°C. We hypothesize that low meristematic oxygen content is a key factor in events of seagrass die-off.

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