CIE Spotlight: Effects of nutrient load on microbial activities within a seagrass-dominated ecosystem: Implications of changes in seagrass blue carbon

Peter M.

Authors: Liu, Songlin; Jiang, Zhijian; Wu, Yunchao; Zhang, Jingping; Arbi, Iman; Ye, Feng; Huang, Xiaoping; Macreadie, Peter Ian

Source: MARINE POLLUTION BULLETIN, 117 (1-2):214-221, APR 15 2017

Brief summary of the paper: Nutrient loading is a leading cause of global seagrass decline, triggering shifts from seagrass- to macroalgal-dominance. Within seagrass meadows of Xincun Bay (South China Sea), we found that nutrient loading (due to fish farming) increased sediment microbial biomass and extracellular enzyme activity associated with carbon cycling (polyphenol oxidase, invertase and cellulase), with a corresponding decrease in percent sediment organic carbon (SOC), suggesting that nutrients primed microorganism and stimulated SOC remineralization.

Surpisingly, however, the relative contribution of seagrass-derived carbon to bacteria (δ¹³Cbacteria) increased with nutrient loading, despite popular theory being that microbes switch to consuming macroalgae which are assumed to provide a more labile carbon source. Organic carbon sources of fungi were unaffected by nutrient loading.

Overall, this study suggests that nutrient loading changes the relative contribution of seagrass and algal sources to SOC pools, boosting sediment microbial biomass and extracellular enzyme activity, thereby possibly changing seagrass blue carbon.