Are seagrass growth and survival constrained by the reducing conditions of the sediment?

J. Terrados*, C. M. Duarte, L. Kamp-Nielsen, N. S.R. Agawin, E. Gacia, D. Lacap, M. D. Fortes, J. Borum, M. Lubanski, T. Greve

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations


A literature review of the effects of the reducing conditions of the sediment on seagrass metabolism, growth and survival, and of the morphological and physiological adaptations that seagrasses show to cope with sediment anoxia is presented and major gaps in knowledge are identified. The hypothesis that sediment anoxia controls the survival of seagrasses was tested experimentally by increasing the oxygen demand of the sediment with the addition of sucrose. Experiments were performed in a tropical (Southeast Asia) multispecific seagrass meadow, a Mediterranean Cymodocea nodosa meadow, and a temperate Zostera marina meadow. Sulfide levels in pore water and vertical redox profiles were used to characterise the effects of the sucrose additions on the sediment, while plant responses were quantified through the changes in shoot density and leaf growth. Sulfide levels in pore water increased and sediment redox potential decreased after the addition of sucrose to the sediment of different seagrass meadows. The effect of the addition of sucrose to the sediment of seagrasses was species-specific. Leaf growth was reduced and shoot mortality increased in some of the tropical species (e.g., Thalassia hemprichii), but not in others. Neither mortality nor leaf growth of the Mediterranean species C. nodosa was affected by sucrose additions, and only leaf growth was reduced two months after the addition of sucrose in Z. marina. Our results suggest that increased sediment anoxia might be a factor promoting growth inhibition and mortality in seagrasses, although strong differences have been found among different species and environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-197
Number of pages23
JournalAquatic Botany
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Nov 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by projects TS3*-CT94-0301 and MAS3-CT96-0053 of the STD-3 and ELOISE programmes of the European Commission. N.S.R. Agawin was supported by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, and J. Terrados and E. Gacia by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture. This is a contribution to the LOICZ program (project #27), a core project of the IGBP program.


  • Leaf growth
  • Redox potential
  • Seagrasses
  • Sediment anoxia
  • Shoot mortality
  • Sulfide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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