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  • Angove, Charlotte; Norkko, Alf; Gustafsson, Camilla (2018)
    Aquatic plant meadows are valuable components to the 'coastal filter' and it is important to understand the processes that drive their ability to cycle nutrients. However, at present, the field-based evidence for understanding the drivers of nutrient uptake by plants is lacking. This study aimed to investigate how well individual shoots of aquatic plants could meet their nitrogen demands using the sediment nutrient pool (porewater ammonium) and to explore which traits helped to facilitate such uptake. Several species were investigated in shallow, submerged (2-4 m) mixed-species communities in the northern Baltic Sea using incubation experiments with enriched ammonium. After a 3.5 h incubation time, individuals were collected and analysed for nitrogen (% DW) and N-15 (at-%) concentrations. Uptake by plants was calculated per unit nitrogen in response to the N-15 labelled source and to overall nitrogen availability. Background porewater ammonium availability was highly variable between individual plants. Species identity did not significantly affect uptake metrics and the effect of ambient porewater availability was weak. As biomass increased there were significant logarithmic declines in the 95th quantiles of nutrient uptake rates, ambient porewater nutrient availability and aboveground nitrogen tissue concentrations (% DW). Such findings suggested that uptake rates of plants were significantly demand driven and the nutrient conditions of the porewater were significantly driven by the demands of the plant. Findings parameterised the unfulfilled potential for some aquatic plants to cycle nutrients more efficiently and highlighted the potential importance of access to new nutrient sources as a way of enhancing nutrient cycling by aquatic plants. Plant traits and community properties such as the activity of infauna could facilitate such an access and are likely important for nutrient uptake.