Large pools and fluxes of carbon, calcium and phosphorus in dense charophyte stands in ponds

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Bicarbonate and calcium set bounds on photosynthesis and degradation processes in calcareous freshwaters. Charophytic algae use bicarbonate in photosynthesis, and direct variable proportions to assimilate organic carbon and to precipitate calcium carbonate on their surfaces. To evaluate pools of organic carbon (Corg), carbonate carbon (Ccarbonate), and phosphorus (P) in dense charophyte vegetation, we studied apical and basal tissue and carbonate surface precipitates, as well as underlying sediments in ten calcareous ponds. We also quantified the release of calcium, bicarbonate and phosphate from charophyte shoots in dark experiments. We found that the Corg:Ccarbonate quotient in charophyte stands averaged 1.19 during spring and summer. The Corg:Ccarbonate quotient in the sediments formed by dead charophytes averaged 0.97 in accordance with some respiratory CO2 release without carbonate dissolution to bicarbonate. The molar quotient of carbon to calcium was close to 2.0 in sediment and pond water. In dark incubations, shoots subjected to calcium carbonate dissolution released bicarbonate and calcium with a molar quotient of 2:1; lowered pH (7.0–8.0) increased the release. Thus, the carbonate surface crust on living charophytes was not inert, as hitherto anticipated. Phosphate dark release occurred from basal shoots only, was unrelated to pH, and may have derived from organic decomposition, rather than from carbonate dissolution. Extensive phosphorus pools were associated with the charophyte stands (200–600 mg m−2) and had about 2/3 incorporated in alga tissue and 1/3 in carbonate crust. Overall, the biogeochemistry of carbon, calcium and phosphorus are closely linked in calcareous charophyte ponds. Carbonate dissolution from charophyte crusts at night and continuously from sediment might balance extensive carbonate precipitation during daytime photosynthesis. The substantial P-pool in charophyte stands may not derive from P-deprived water, but from P-rich sediment. Charophyte photosynthesis may still contribute to nutrient-poor conditions by forming carbonate-rich sediment of high P-binding capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number142792
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Calcification, Carbon budgets, Charophytes, Lakes, Macrophytes, Phosphorus sink

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