Iron additions reduce sulfate reduction rates and improve seagrass growth on organic-enriched carbonate sediments

Marianne Holmer*, Carlos M. Duarte, Nuria Marbá

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Here we demonstrate, through experimental iron additions to a Mediterranean seagrass meadow, that iron plays a pivotal role in seagrass systems on carbonate sediments, directly through its role as a limiting nutrient, and indirectly by stimulating phosphorus recycling through the activity of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase and by buffering the development of reduced conditions in sediments. Iron additions were performed throughout the active root zone (30 cm depth) to two Posidonia oceanica meadows, one on organic-enriched sediments and one on organic poor sediments (Reference). Seagrass growth, nutrient incorporation and sediment biogeochemical conditions were followed for four months. Iron additions had positive effects on seagrass growth (leaf production increased with 55%) and nutrient incorporation (increased 46-91%) in the organic-enriched site, increasing to levels found at the Reference site. There was no effect of iron additions in the Reference seagrass meadow suggesting that iron was not the most important controlling factor at this site. The iron pools were about two times higher compared to the organic-enriched site. The main effect on the sediment biogeochemical conditions at the organic-enriched site was a suppression of sulfate reduction activity to the levels encountered at the Reference site (6.7 mmol m-2d -1 vs. 4.7-5.9 mmol m-2d-1). This suggests that the sulfide stress on the seagrasses was removed and that the iron availability increased due to reduced precipitation of iron-sulfides and thus improving seagrass growth conditions in these organic-enriched sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-730
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbonate sediments
  • Iron addition
  • Remediation
  • Seagrass
  • Sulfur cycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Chemistry


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