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Marine angiosperms, seagrasses, are sentinel species of marine ecosystem health and function. Seagrass carbon budgets provide insight on the minimum requirements needed to maintain this valuable resource. Carbon budgets are a balance between C fixation, growth, storage and loss rates, most of which are well characterized. However, relatively few measurements of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) leaf exudation or rhizodeposition rates exist for most seagrass species. Here I evaluate how eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) DOC exudation is affected by a single factor manipulation (light, temperature or salinity). Eelgrass plants were hydroponically exposed to treatments in experimental chambers (separate leaf and rhizome/root compartments) with artificial seawater medium. Regression analysis of changes in the DOC concentration through time was used to calculate DOC exudation rates.
Exudation rates were similar across all treatments in all experiments. For all experiments, pooled leaf DOC exudation ranged between 0.032 and 0.069mg C gdw-1h-1, while rhizodeposition ranged between 0.024 and 0.045mg C gdw-1h-1. These rates are consistent with previously published values and provide first-order estimates for mechanistic models.
Zostera marina carbon losses from either leaf exudation or rhizodeposition account for a small proportion of gross primary production (1.2-4.6%) and appear to be insensitive to short-term (e.g., hours to days) environmental variations in chamber experiments. Based on these preliminary experiments, I suggest that Z. marina DOC exudation may be a passive process and not an active transport process.