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Morphological and physiological variation among seagrass (Zostera marina) genotypes

  • Author(s): Hughes, A. Randall
  • Stachowicz, John J.
  • Williams, Susan L.
  • et al.
Abstract

Intraspecific variation in habitat-forming species can have important ecological consequences at the population, community, and ecosystem level. However, the contribution of genetic variation among individuals to these effects is seldom documented. We quantified morphological and physiological variation among genotypes of a marine foundation species, the seagrass Zostera marina. We grew replicate shoots of eight genetically distinct Zostera individuals collected from Bodega Bay, California, in a common garden environment and then quantified shoot production and morphology, nutrient uptake, and key photosynthetic parameters. We found that genotypes differed in shoot production, biomass, and both root and shoot nutrient uptake rates, even when corrected for genotype-specific biomass differences. In addition, the rank order of uptake ability differed for ammonium and nitrate, indicating that genotypes may exhibit resource partitioning of different forms of nutrients. Our results suggest that both niche complementarity among genotypes and the sampling/selection effect could contribute to previously observed positive effects of seagrass clonal diversity on resource utilization and biomass production. Further, they highlight that genotypic variation in key traits of habitat-forming species could have measurable effects on community structure and function.

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