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A three-stage symbiosis forms the foundation of seagrass ecosystems

Van der Heide, T. and Govers, L.L. and De Fouw, J. and Olff, H. and Van der Geest, M. and Van Katwijk, M.M. and Piersma, T. and Van de Koppel, J. and Silliman, B.R. and Smolders, A.J.P. and van Gils, J.A. (2012) A three-stage symbiosis forms the foundation of seagrass ecosystems. Science, 336, 1432-1434. ISSN 0036-8075.

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Seagrasses evolved from terrestrial plants into marine foundation species around 100 million years ago. Their ecological success, however, remains a mystery because natural organic matter accumulation within the beds should result in toxic sediment sulfide levels. Using a meta-analysis, a field study, and a laboratory experiment, we reveal how an ancient three-stage symbiosis between seagrass, lucinid bivalves, and their sulfide-oxidizing gill bacteria reduces sulfide stress for seagrasses. We found that the bivalve–sulfide-oxidizer symbiosis reduced sulfide levels and enhanced seagrass production as measured in biomass. In turn, the bivalves and their endosymbionts profit from organic matter accumulation and radial oxygen release from the seagrass roots. These findings elucidate the long-term success of seagrasses in warm waters and offer new prospects for seagrass ecosystem conservation.

Item Type:Article
Institutes:Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO)
ID Code:12386
Deposited On:20 Jun 2012 09:43
Last Modified:22 Aug 2013 11:54

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