Dissolved oxygen fluxes and ecosystem metabolism in an eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadow measured with the eddy correlation technique

Hume, Andrew C., Peter Berg, and Karen J. McGlathery

Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(1), 2011, 86-96 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.1.0086

ABSTRACT: Dissolved oxygen (DO) fluxes were measured by eddy correlation to estimate net ecosystem metabolism (NEM) during summer in a restored eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadow and a nearby, unvegetated sediment. This technique measures benthic fluxes under true in situ light and hydrodynamic conditions, integrates over a large area (typically > 100 m2), and captures short-term variations. DO fluxes measured through eight 24-h periods showed pronounced temporal variation driven by light and local hydrodynamics on multiple scales: hour-to-hour, within each daily cycle, and between deployments. The magnitude of variation between hours during single deployments equaled that between deployments, indicating that short-term variation must be included for metabolism estimates to be accurate. DO flux variability was significantly correlated to mean current velocity for the seagrass site and to significant wave height for the unvegetated site. Fluxes measured in low-flow conditions analogous to many chamber and core incubations underestimated those measured in higher-flow conditions typical of in situ conditions by a factor of 2-6. Rates of gross primary production (GPP), respiration (R), and NEM varied substantially between individual deployments, reflecting variations in light and hydrodynamic conditions, and daily values of GPP and R for individual deployments were tightly linked. Average daily NEM of the seagrass site was higher than that of the unvegetated site; the seagrass site was in metabolic balance, and the unvegetated site showed a tendency toward net heterotrophy during this midsummer period.

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