J. den Haan
S. van Heeringen
- Nitrogen and phosphorus uptake rates of different species from a coral reef community after a nutrient pulse
- Scientific Reports
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Terrestrial runoff after heavy rainfall can increase nutrient concentrations in waters overlying coral reefs that otherwise experience low nutrient levels. Field measurements during a runoff event showed a sharp increase in nitrate (75-fold), phosphate (31-fold) and ammonium concentrations (3-fold) in waters overlying a fringing reef at the island of Curaçao (Southern Caribbean). To understand how benthic reef organisms make use of such nutrient pulses, we determined ammonium, nitrate and phosphate uptake rates for one abundant coral species, turf algae, six macroalgal and two benthic cyanobacterial species in a series of laboratory experiments. Nutrient uptake rates differed among benthic functional groups. The filamentous macroalga Cladophora spp., turf algae and the benthic cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula had the highest uptake rates per unit biomass, whereas the coral Madracis mirabilis had the lowest. Combining nutrient uptake rates with the standing biomass of each functional group on the reef, we estimated that the ammonium and phosphate delivered during runoff events is mostly taken up by turf algae and the two macroalgae Lobophora variegata and Dictyota pulchella. Our results support the often proposed, but rarely tested, assumption that turf algae and opportunistic macroalgae primarily benefit from episodic inputs of nutrients to coral reefs.
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