Thresholds of irradiance for seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadow metabolism

E. Gacia*, N. Marba, J. Cebrián, R. Vaquer-Sunyer, N. Garcias-Bonet, C. M. Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Meadows of the endemic seagrass Posidonia oceanica are threatened in the Mediterranean due to a general deterioration of the light environment that becomes critical when light irradiance is insufficient to meet the carbon requirements of the system. Here, we conduct a 3 wk, in situ shading experiment (8 levels plus controls) to determine the threshold of irradiance for balanced metabolism in a shallow P. oceanica meadow and further assess the recovery of the system 1 wk later. Reduced light irradiance decreased the net community production of the meadow, which may turn negative (i.e. respiration exceeded gross community primary production) under 338 μE m -2 s-1. Shading throughout the experiment did not appear to cause sustained physiological damage to the system since values of net community production after the cessation of shading were similar to pre-experimental, ambient levels. Sediment acid volatile sulfide pools ranged between 0.002 and 0.058 mol m -2 across shading treatments, and the highest pools were observed in the most shaded sediments. At high light impairment, meristematic cell divisions were low, and carbohydrate content in young rhizomes decreased throughout the experiment. Eight days after the cessation of shading, reduced rhizome carbohydrate stores and elevated sediment sulfide levels still persisted in the previously intensively shaded areas. The present study provides evidence of resistance and resilience of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica to light impairment for short (3 wk) periods of time. Although the compensation irradiance of the system varied by ̃2-fold, it provides a quantitative estimate of the irradiance threshold at which seagrass meadows may shift from being coastal carbon sinks to CO 2 sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-79
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Oct 15 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Compensation Irradiance
  • Ecosystem
  • Mediterranean
  • Production
  • Respiration
  • Seagrass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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