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Benthic response to ammonium pulses in a tropical lagoon: implications for coastal environmental processes

TitleBenthic response to ammonium pulses in a tropical lagoon: implications for coastal environmental processes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsClavier, J, Boucher, G, Chauvaud, L, Fichez, R, Chifflet, S
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

In New Caledonia, the benthic communities living in the coral reef lagoon around Noumea city are subjected to regular shifts from oligotrophic conditions typical of lagoon waters to nutrient enrichment due to waste water inputs. The influence of ammonium pulses on microphytobenthos production was experimentally tested under varying light intensities in the vicinity of Noumea. Benthic oxygen, ammonium and silicon fluxes at the sediment-water interface were measured in situ using benthic enclosures. Three ammonium concentrations were tested. Gross primary production was doubled with a 13.8 mu mol 1(-1) ammonium concentration increase. Fitted PI curves showed that maximum production (F-max) was linearly related to ammonium concentration, but not the optimal irradiance (I-k). Silicon fluxes were characterized by dissolution in the absence of light, a process that declined with increasing illumination. These results were attributed to microphytobenthos activity, mainly diatoms that are nutrient-limited and strongly reactive to ammonium inputs. Production may result from a multiplication of cells, but migration up to the water sediment interface may also be involved. Oxygen consumption was also significantly influenced by ammonium concentration as a positive linear relationship with added ammonium concentration was established. Even during short-term experiments, ammonium enrichment stimulated photoautotrophic production, increasing the energy available to heterotrophs. Furthermore, microbenthic activities as well as nitrate production were increased by ammoniaoxidizing bacteria able to grow chemolithotrophically at the expense of oxygen. Therefore, in the study area, pulses of urban waste waters resulted in a decrease of plant-related autotrophy in benthic communities. (c) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.