Sustained productivity and respiration of degrading kelp detritus in the shallow benthos: Detached or broken, but not dead.

Affiliation

Frontier N(1), de Bettignies F(2), Foggo A(3), Davoult D(2).
Author information:
(1)Sorbonne Université, CNRS, UMR 7144 AD2M, Station Biologique de Roscoff, Place Georges Teissier, F-29680, Roscoff, France; Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Sorbonne Université, CNRS, UMR 7144 AD2M, Station Biologique de Roscoff, Place Georges Teissier, F-29680, Roscoff, France.
(3)Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK.

Abstract

Temperate kelp forests contribute significantly to marine primary productivity and fuel many benthic and pelagic food chains. A large proportion of biomass is exported from kelp forests as detritus into recipient marine ecosystems, potentially contributing to Blue Carbon sequestration. The degradation of this organic material is slow and recent research has revealed the preservation of photosynthetic functions over time. However, the physiological correlates of detrital breakdown in Laminaria spp. have not yet been studied. The warming climate threatens to reshuffle the species composition of kelp forests and perturb the dynamics of these highly productive ecosystems. The present study compares the physiological response of degrading detritus from two competing North East Atlantic species; the native Boreal Laminaria hyperborea and the thermally tolerant Boreal-Lusitanian L. ochroleuca. Detrital fragment degradation was measured by a mesocosm experiment across a gradient of spectral attenuation (a proxy for depth) to investigate the changes in physiological performance under different environmental conditions. Degradation of fragments was quantified over 108 days by measuring the biomass, production and respiration (by respirometry) and efficiency of Photosystem II (by PAM fluorometry). Data indicated that whilst degrading, the photosynthetic performance of the species responded differently to simulated depths, but fragments of both species continued to produce oxygen for up to 56 days and sustained positive net primary production. This study reveals the potential for ostensibly detrital kelp to contribute to Blue Carbon fixation through sustained primary production which should be factored into Blue Carbon management. Furthermore, the physiological response of kelp detritus is likely dependent upon the range of habitats to which it is exported. In the context of climate change, shifts in species composition of kelp forests and their detritus are likely to have wide-reaching effects upon the cycling of organic matter in benthic ecosystems.