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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Posidonia oceanica meadow: a low nutrient high chlorophyll (LNHC) system?

Sylvie Gobert*, Noémie Laumont and Jean-Marie Bouquegneau

Author Affiliations

Oceanology, University of Liège, B6, Sart Tilman B-4000 Liège, Belgium

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BMC Ecology 2002, 2:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-2-9

Published: 21 August 2002



In spite of very low nutrient concentrations in its vicinity – both column and pore waters-, the Posidonia oceanica of the Revellata Bay displays high biomass and productivity. We measured the nutrient fluxes from the sediment into the water enclosed among the leaf shoots ("canopy water") to determine if it is possible source of nutrients for P. oceanica leaves.


During the summer, the canopy water appears to act as a nutrient reservoir for the plant. During that period, the canopy water layer displays both a temperature 0.5°C cooler than the upper water column, and a much higher nutrient content, as shown in this work using a very simple original technique permitting to sample water with a minimal disturbance of the water column's vertical structure.

Despite low nutrient concentrations in pore water, mean net fluxes were measured from the sediment to the canopy water. These fluxes are sufficient to provide 20% of the mean daily nitrogen and phosphorus requirement of the P. oceanica shoots.


An internal cycling of nutrients from P. oceanica senescent leaves was previously noted as an efficient strategy to help face low nutrient availability. The present study points out a second strategy which consists in holding back, in the canopy, the nutrients released at the water-sediment interface. This process occurs when long leaves, during poor nutrient periods in the water column, providing, to P. oceanica, the possibility to develop, high biomass, high chlorophyll quantities in low nutrient environment (a Low Nutrients High Chlorophyll system).