In situ fluxes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen from the sponge community on Conch Reef, Key Largo, Florida

Southwell, Melissa W., Jeremy B. Weisz, Christopher S. Martens, Niels Lindquist

Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(3), 2008, 986-996 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.3.0986

ABSTRACT: We measured ammonium and nitrate plus nitrite fluxes from 14 common sponge species on a Florida Keys reef (Conch Reef) using a combination of incubation experiments and an in situ method that requires no manipulation of the sponge. On a 600-m2 section of Conch Reef, species-specific biomass for all nonencrusting sponges was measured. The biomass data combined with species-specific dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) flux rates yielded the benthic DIN flux from 14 species, and allowed us to extrapolate these data to the total nonencrusting sponge community. The species for which we measured DIN fluxes represented 85% of the nonencrusting sponge biomass in the study area and released a combined 480 ± 93 µmol m-2 h-1 of nitrate plus nitrite, and 57 ± 73 µmol m-2 h-1 of ammonium. Approximately 73% of the measured DIN flux was produced by Xestospongia muta, a massive barrel sponge. Of the 14 species studied, 10 hosted active nitrifying communities, and 8 hosted photosynthetic microbial associates. However, the presence of these microbial communities had no apparent effect on the magnitude of the total DIN flux. We estimate that the DIN flux for the entire nonencrusting sponge community is 640 ± 130 µmol m-2 h-1.

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