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Implications of climate change for submerged macrophytes

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Subtitle:effects of CO₂, flow velocity and nutrient concentration on Berula erecta
Climate change can result in multiple indirect alterations of the environment in riverine ecosystems, due to changes in precipitation and runoff. Flow velocity, concentrations of CO2 and nutrients are thereby expected to change, and consequences of the combination of those effects for macrophytes, a key organism group, are still poorly understood. This was tested in a racetrack flume experiment on macrophyte species Berula erecta, an amphibious species growing fully submerged in the experiment. In a full-factorial design, plants were exposed to two different CO2 concentrations, two nutrient concentrations (N, P and Si) and two flow velocities. Apart from individual dose-response tests, two climate change scenarios were tested: a wet scenario simulating heavy precipitation and runoff with high flow velocity, high CO2 and high nutrient concentrations and a dry scenario simulating evapotranspiration with low flow velocity, high CO2 and high nutrient concentrations. Growth rate, biomass, morphology, chlorophyll and nutrient content were measured. Berula erecta responded strongly to both scenarios. Biomass and relative growth rate increased, leaf BSi content decreased, and especially in the wet scenario macrophytes had shorter stems and formed stolons with new ramets: the plants invested in horizontal growth to avoid hydrodynamic stress. Moreover, the C/N ratio was higher, leading to lower quality of macrophyte tissue as food source, and chlorophyll concentration was lower in the high CO2 treatment. It can be concluded that combined stressors caused by climate change strongly affect macrophytes, which may indirectly have consequences for other organisms of the aquatic ecosystem that depend on macrophytes.
Journal: Aquatic ecology
ISSN: 1386-2588
Volume: 99
Pages: 1 - 19
Publication year:2020
Keywords:A1 Journal article