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The effects of temperature, irradiance, and other environmental variables on photosynthesis in seagrasses are well understood. However, little information is available regarding the effects of the nitrate concentration in seawater on the photosynthetic characteristics of marine vegetation. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the effect of the nitrate concentration in seawater on the effective quantum yield of the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa. Cymodocea nodosa shoots were incubated under different irradiance levels and with different nitrate concentrations. In contrast, a decrease in transmittance and an exponential increase in the absorptance of the shoots were observed as a function of increasing nitrate levels. Furthermore, the effective quantum yield of photosystem II (ΦPSII) in C. nodosa shoots increased exponentially as the nitrate concentration in the media increased. The ΦPSII values in the shoots decreased as irradiance increased and reached minimum values at solar noon or 2 h afterward. However, the decrease of ΦPSII values was 4-fold greater in shoots incubated under full solar radiation (100% natural incident irradiance, Eo) compared to those of shoots incubated with 20% Eo. The ΦPSII values decreased to almost zero in shoots pre-incubated with no nitrate (0 μM NO3–), whereas ΦPSII values in shoots pre incubated with 25 and 100 μM NO3– decreased by approximately 25% of their initial values. Collectively, these results indicate that nitrogen levels in seawater regulate the effective quantum yield values of C. nodosa, which suggests that the photosynthetic characteristics of this seagrass might be regulated by fluctuating nitrate levels in the water column such as those that are observed in upwelling regions.
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