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Seasonal uncoupling of demographic processes in a marine clonal plant

March 22, 2014

In temperate regions, climatic factors impose a general seasonal pattern on seagrass growth that can be observed in leaf growth rates and, in small species, also in shoot density. Large variations in shoot density suggest a strong temporal uncoupling between shoot recruitment and shoot mortality, and the dependence of each of these processes on different drivers. Here we examine seasonal patterns of recruitment and mortality in the seagrass Cymodoceanodosa, one of the species most sensitive to seasonal forcing in the Mediterranean. We sampled two local populations submitted to different nutrient availability in Alfacs Bay (NW Mediterranean) and determined recruitment and mortality rates, as well as other plant traits, on a monthly basis. Our results confirm the hypothesized uncoupling, with maximum mortality 2 months after maximum recruitment. Whereas timing of recruitment was associated with light availability, and was supported by carbohydrate remobilisation, mortality was related to high water temperatures and probably also to light limitation in late summer due to self-shading. In the high-nutrient population, algal overgrowth caused further light deprivation, with mortality rates higher than in the low-nutrient population. It is emphasised that the demographic balance of the studied populations was negative for most of the year, with the exception of August and September. Therefore, caution is necessary when overall population trends are inferred from single annual sampling events.

Mascaró O, Romero J, Pérez M, in press: Seasonal uncoupling of demographic processes in a marine clonal plant, Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science, doi:/10.1016/j.ecss.2014.03.011. Article.

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