Eutrophication of estuaries and coastal seas is accelerating, increasing light stress on subtidal marine plants and changing their interactions with other species. To date, we have limited understanding of how such variations in environmental and biological stress modify the impact of interactions among foundational species and eventually affect ecosystem health. Here, we used metabolomics to assess the impact of light reductions on interactions between the seagrass Zostera marina, an important habitat-forming marine plant, and the abundant and commercially important blue mussel Mytilus edulis. Plant performance varied with light availability but was unaffected by the presence of mussels. Metabolomic analysis, on the other hand, revealed an interaction between light availability and presence of M. edulis on seagrass metabolism. Under high light, mussels stimulated seagrass nitrogen and energy metabolism. Conversely, in low light mussels impeded nitrogen and energy metabolism, and enhanced responses against sulfide toxicity, causing inhibited oxidative energy metabolism and tissue degradation. Metabolomic analysis thereby revealed cryptic changes to seagrass condition that could not be detected by traditional approaches. Our findings suggest that coastal eutrophication and associated reductions in light may shift seagrass-bivalve interactions from mutualistic to antagonistic, which is important for conservation management of seagrass meadows.
Hasler-Sheetal, H., Castorani, M., Glud, R. N., Canfield, D. E., & Holmer, M. (2016). Metabolomics Reveals Cryptic Interactive Effects of Species Interactions and Environmental Stress on Nitrogen and Sulfur Metabolism in Seagrass. Environmental Science & Technology, 50(21), 11602-11609. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b04647