Acclimation of seagrass Zostera noltii to co-occurring hydrodynamic and light stresses

Carmen B. De Los Santos, Fernando G. Brun, Tjeerd J. Bouma, Juan J. Vergara, J. Lucas Pérez-Lloréns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Seagrasses may frequently experience a combination of velocity and light stresses, as elevated hydrodynamics often enhances turbidity and the subsequent light reduction. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects that these stressors induce on morphometric and dynamic seagrass features depending on the initial biomass partitioning. For this purpose, a factorial mesocosm experiment was conducted on plants of Zostera noltii subjected to combinations of 2 contrasting light levels (2.5 ± 0.6 and 15.6 ± 2.5 mol photons m-2 d-1) and 3 unidirectional flow velocities (0.35, 0.10 and 0.01 m s-1). No interactive effects between the 2 variables were recorded, except on plant survival and leaf length, and generally, light effects prevailed over hydrodynamic ones. Plants responded to light reduction regardless of the flow velocity treatments, showing low survival rates (which improved at high velocity), high aboveground/belowground biomass ratios (AG/BG) and a poorly developed root-rhizome system compared to plants under saturating light conditions. Plant morphometry only responded to hydrodynamic stress under saturating light: at high current velocity, plants preferentially allocated biomass into BG structures, bearing short leaves and displaying high internode and root appearance rates. Overall, light reduction promoted similar responses in plants with different AG/BG biomass ratios, but dissimilarities were recorded for current velocity. Thus, it can be concluded that, under simultaneous light and hydrodynamic stresses, light effects prevailed over hydrodynamic ones in Z. noltii, while acclimation to hydrodynamics only occurred under saturating light.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-135
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboveground/belowground biomass ratio
  • Acclimation
  • Flume tank
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Light reduction
  • Multiple stressors
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Zostera noltii


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