University of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Effect of seawater velocity on inorganic nitrogen uptake by morphologically distinct forms of Macrocystis integrifolia from wave-sheltered and exposed sites

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 02:05 authored by Catriona HurdCatriona Hurd, Harrison, PJ, Druehl, LD
In conditions of low water motion (<0.06 ms−1), the availability of essential nutrients to macroalgae, and thus their potential productivity, may be limited by thick diffusion boundary-layers at the thallus surface. The ability of macroalgae to take up nutrients in slow moving water may be related to how their blade morphology affects diffusion boundarylayer thickness. For the giant kelp, Macrocystis integrifolia Bory, morphological measurements indicate that blades of plants from a site exposed to wave action are thick, narrow and have a heavily corrugated surface. In contrast, blades from a site with a low degree of water motion are relatively thin, with few surface corrugations and large undulations along their edges. The aim of our work was to test the hypothesis that morphological features of M. integrifolia blades from a sheltered site allow enhanced inorganic nitrogen uptake at low seawater velocities compared to blades with a wave-exposed morphology. The rate of nitrate and ammonium uptake by morphologically distinct blades of M. integrifolia, from sites that were sheltered from and exposed to wave action, were measured in the laboratory at a range of seawater velocities (0.01 to 0.16 ms−1), between March and May 1993. For both sheltered and exposed blade morphologies, nitrate and ammonium uptake rates increased with increasing seawater velocity, reaching a maximum rate at 0.04 to 0.06 ms−1. Uptake parameters Vmax (maximum uptake rate) and U0.37 (the velocity at which the uptake rate is 37% of the maximum rate) were estimated using an exponential decay formula. These parameters were similar for both blade morphologies, at all seawater velocities tested. Additional measurements suggest that the nitrogen status of M. integrifolia blades from wavesheltered and exposed sites were similar throughout the experimental period, and thus nitrogen status did not affect the rate of nitrogen uptake in these experiments. on the basis of these results, we conclude that blade morphology does not enhance nitrogen uptake by M. integrifolia in conditions of low water motion. Potential effects of diffusion boundary-layers on kelp productivity are discussed.


Publication title

Marine Biology








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies



Place of publication

175 Fifth Ave, New York, USA, Ny, 10010

Rights statement

Copyright 1996 Springer-Verlag

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania


    Ref. manager