Scientia Marina, Vol 72, No 1 (2008)

Isotopic ratios and elemental contents as indicators of seagrass C processing and sewage influence in a tropical macrotidal ecosystem (Madagascar, Mozambique Channel)

Gilles Lepoint
MARE centre, Laboratoire d’Océanologie, Institut de Chimie, Bât B6c, Université de Liège, Belgium

Bruno Frédérich
MARE centre, Laboratoire de Morphologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Belgium

Sylvie Gobert
MARE centre, Laboratoire d’Océanologie, Institut de Chimie, Bât B6c, Université de Liège, Belgium

Eric Parmentier
MARE centre, Laboratoire de Morphologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Belgium


Isotopic ratios and elemental concentrations of carbon and nitrogen were measured in seven seagrass species colonising different tidal flats near Toliara (SW Madagascar) in order to determine the potential use of these parameters for assessing C processing and sewage use by tropical seagrasses. Nitrogen concentrations measured in upper intertidal seagrasses near Toliara were almost twice those measured on the tidal flat near a healthy mangrove situated 20 km away from Toliara town. At Toliara Beach, δ15N values were correlated with the N concentrations of Halodule sp., one of the dominant species on the tidal flat. This correlation did not exist for Halophila ovalis, the other dominant species. An increase in N concentrations and δ15N values demonstrates the influence of sewage coming directly onto Toliara Beach on the N cycles of intertidal seagrasses. Nevertheless, this influence seems restricted to the upper littoral zone and was not the main cause of seagrass die-off. On the other hand, at the mangrove site, δ15N values were not correlated with the N concentrations of Halodule sp. or Thalassia hemprichii, showing that natural δ15N variability is driven by other factors than the δ15N of N sources. Moreover, inter-individual variability of δ15N values was greater than inter-specific or inter-site variability, making the δ15N difficult to interpret in the context of human-disturbance influence on the N cycle of tropical seagrasses. δ13C values were close to -9‰, indicating the use of HCO3- inorganic carbon source by the seven investigated species. Contrary to our hypothesis, variation between sites and location on the tidal flat was limited, suggesting limited impact on δ13C values of sewage, emersion duration and mechanisms for HCO3- incorporation.


sewage impact; coastal ecosystem; seagrass; stable isotopes; tidal habitat; SW Indian Ocean

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