Toxic effects of increased sediment nutrient and organic matter loading on the seagrass zostera noltii

Laura L. Govers*, Jan H.F. de Brouwer, Wouter Suykerbuyk, Tjeerd J. Bouma, Leon P.M. Lamers, Alfons J.P. Smolders, Marieke M. van Katwijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


As a result of anthropogenic disturbances and natural stressors, seagrass beds are often patchy and heterogeneous. The effects of high loads of nutrients and organic matter in patch development and expansion in heterogeneous seagrass beds have, however, poorly been studied. We experimentally assessed the in situ effects of sediment quality on seagrass (Zostera noltii) patch dynamics by studying patch (0.35m diameter) development and expansion for 4 sediment treatments: control, nutrient addition (NPK), organic matter addition (OM) and a combination (NPK+OM). OM addition strongly increased porewater sulfide concentrations whereas NPK increased porewater ammonium, nitrate and phosphate concentrations. As high nitrate concentrations suppressed sulfide production in NPK+OM, this treatment was biogeochemically comparable to NPK. Sulfide and ammonium concentrations differed within treatments, but over a 77 days period, seagrass patch survival and expansion were impaired by all additions compared to the control treatment. Expansion decreased at porewater ammonium concentrations >2000μmolL-1. Mother patch biomass was not affected by high porewater ammonium concentrations as a result of its detoxification by higher seagrass densities. Sulfide concentrations >1000μmolL-1 were toxic to both patch expansion and mother patch. We conclude that patch survival and expansion are constrained at high loads of nutrients or organic matter as a result of porewater ammonium or sulfide toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Eutrophication
  • Joint detoxification
  • Nutrient
  • Organic matter
  • Sulfide toxicity

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