Annual benthic metabolism and organic carbon fluxes in a semi-enclosed Mediterranean bay dominated by the macroalgae Caulerpa prolifera

Sergio Ruiz-Halpern*, Raquel Vaquer-Sunyer, Carlos M. Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Coastal areas play an important role on carbon cycling. Elucidating the dynamics on the production, transport, and fate of organic carbon (OC) is relevant to gain a better understanding on the role coastal areas play in the global carbon budget. Here, we assess the metabolic status and associated OC fluxes of a semi-enclosed Mediterranean bay supporting a meadow of Caulerpa prolifera. We test whether the EDOC pool is a significant component of the OC pool and associated fluxes in this ecosystem. The Bay of Portocolom was in net metabolic balance on a yearly basis, but heterotrophic during the summer months. Community respiration (CR) was positively correlated to C. prolifera biomass, while net community production (NCP) had a negative correlation. The benthic compartment represented, on average, 72.6 ± 5.2% of CR and 86.8 ± 4.5% of gross primary production (GPP). Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) production peaked in summer and was always positive, with the incubations performed in the dark almost doubling the flux of those performed in the light. Exchangeable dissolved organic carbon (EDOC), however, oscillated between production and uptake, being completely recycled within the system and representing around 14% of the DOC flux. The pools of bottom and surface DOC were high for an oligotrophic environment, and were positively correlated to the pool of EDOC. Thus, despite being in metabolic balance, this ecosystem acted as a conduit for OC, as it is able to export OC to adjacent areas derived from allochtonous inputs during heterotrophic conditions. These inputs likely come from groundwater discharge, human activity in the watershed, delivered to the sediments through the high capacity of C. prolifera to remove particles from the water column, and from the air-water exchange of EDOC, demonstrating that these communities are a major contributor to the cycling of OC in coastal embayments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the invaluable help of several field assistants without which the work would not have been possible: Alexandra Steckbauer, Angela San Martín and Laura Royo. This research was funded by project MEDEICG, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (CTM2009-07013) and an intramural project funded by CSIC (ref. 200430E661).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Ruiz-Halpern, Vaquer-Sunyer and Duarte.


  • Carbon cycling
  • Dissolved organic carbon (DOC)
  • Exchangeable dissolved organic carbon (EDOC)
  • Fluxes
  • Macroalgae
  • Metabolism
  • Production
  • Volatile organic carbon (VOC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


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