High metabolism and periodic hypoxia associated with drifting macrophyte detritus in the shallow subtidal Baltic Sea

Karl M. Attard*, Anna Lyssenko, Iván F. Rodil

*Corresponding author for this work

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Macrophytes form highly productive habitats that export a substantial proportion of their primary production as particulate organic matter. As the detritus drifts with currents and accumulates in seafloor depressions, it constitutes organic enrichment and can deteriorate O2 conditions on the seafloor. In this study, we investigate the O2 dynamics and macrobenthic biodiversity associated with a shallow g2300gm2 macrophyte detritus field in the northern Baltic Sea. The detritus, primarily Fucus vesiculosus fragments, had a biomass of g1700ggdryweightm-2, approximately 1.5 times larger than nearby intact F. vesiculosus canopies. A vertical array of O2 sensors placed within the detritus documented that hypoxia ([O2] <g63gμmolL-1) occurred for 23g% of the time and terminated at the onset of wave-driven hydrodynamic mixing. Measurements in five other habitats nearby, spanning bare sediments, seagrass, and macroalgae, indicate that hypoxic conditions were unique to detritus canopies. Fast-response O2 sensors placed above the detritus documented pulses of hypoxic waters originating from within the canopy. These pulses triggered a rapid short-Term (gmin) deterioration of O2 conditions within the water column. Eddy covariance measurements of O2 fluxes indicated high metabolic rates, with daily photosynthetic production offsetting up to 81g% of the respiratory demands of the detritus canopy, prolonging its persistence within the coastal zone. The detritus site had a low abundance of crustaceans, bivalves, and polychaetes when compared to other habitats nearby, likely because their low O2 tolerance thresholds were often exceeded.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1713-1724
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1. May 2023


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