We examined the pattern of epiphyte accrual along the life-span of Posidonia oceanica leaves, both for the total epiphyte community and the main epiphyte groups (i.e. red encrusting algae and brown erect algae). Moreover, we document the importance of this epiphyte accrual pattern for evaluating P. oceanica-epiphyte interactions by assessing the dependence of the quantity and quality of light absorbed by epiphytes on their accrual pattern. Epiphyte biomass increased with leaf age following a sigmoidal curve (r2 = 0.90, P < 0.001), both for the epiphyte community and for the two main groups. Total epiphyte biomass increased with leaf age at a rate of about 0.03 day-1 to reach a constant maximum value of 2.60 mg DW cm-2 on leaves older than 200 days. Brown erect algae grew about an order of magnitude faster (0.120 day-1) than red encrusting ones (0.017 day-1). However, the former group of algae reached their maximum biomass (1 mg DW cm-2) on 150 days-old leaves, whereas red encrusting algae continued to grow along the whole leaf life-span to reach a maximum biomass of 1.70 mg DW cm-2. The non-linear increase in epiphyte biomass with leaf age involved a non-linear increase in epiphyte light absorption with leaf age, which reached a maximum constant value of 30% of incident light on 250 days-old leaves. Moreover, because red encrusting algae contribute a higher fraction to total epiphyte biomass on older leaves, we observed a shift in absorbed light quality with increasing leaf-age. Our results indicate the importance of accounting for the pattern of epiphyte accrual with leaf age when assessing seagrass-epiphytes interactions, especially for long-lived seagrass species where epiphytes may differ much in growth and biomass between young and old leaves.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Plant Science