The Future of Freshwater Macrophytes in a Changing World: Dissolved Organic Carbon Quantity and Quality and Its Interactions With Macrophytes

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Rosanne Reitsema et al.

Reitseman R.E. et al. (2018) The Future of Freshwater Macrophytes in a Changing World: Dissolved Organic Carbon Quantity and Quality and Its Interactions With MacrophytesFrontiers in Plant Science, Functional Plant Ecology, May 2018.

Freshwater ecosystems are confronted with the effects of climate change. One of the major changes is an increased concentration of aquatic carbon. Macrophytes are important in the aquatic carbon cycle and play as primary producers a crucial role in carbon storage in aquatic systems. However, macrophytes are affected by increasing carbon concentrations. The focus of this review lies on dissolved organic carbon (DOC), one of the most abundant forms of carbon in aquatic ecosystems which has many effects on macrophytes. DOC concentrations are rising; the exact cause of this increase is not known, although it is hypothesized that climate change is one of the drivers. The quality of DOC is also changing; for example, in urban areas DOC composition is different from the composition in natural watersheds, resulting in DOC that is more resistant to photo-degradation. Plants can benefit from DOC as it attenuates UV-B radiation, it binds potentially harmful heavy metals and provides CO2 as it breaks down. Yet plant growth can also be impaired under high DOC concentrations, especially by humic substances (HS). HS turn the water brown and attenuate light, which limits macrophyte photosynthesis at greater depths. This leads to lower macrophyte abundance and lower species diversity. HS form a wide class of chemicals with many different functional groups and they therefore have the ability to interfere with many biochemical processes that occur in freshwater organisms. Few studies have looked into the direct effects of HS on macrophytes, but there is evidence that HS can interfere with photosynthesis by entering macrophyte cells and causing damage. DOC can also affect reactivity of heavy metals, water and sediment chemistry. This indirectly affects macrophytes too, so they are exposed to multiple stressors that may have contradictive effects. Finally, macrophytes can affect DOC quality and quantity as they produce DOC themselves and provide a substrate to heterotrophic bacteria that degrade DOC. Because macrophytes take a key position in the aquatic ecosystem, it is essential to understand to what extent DOC quantity and quality in surface water are changing and how this will affect macrophyte growth and species diversity in the future.
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Frontiers in Plant Science, Functional Plant Ecology