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Variation in Phenolic Chemistry in Zostera marina Seagrass Along Environmental Gradients

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Trine Bekkby
Eli Rinde
Cecilie Sævdal Dybsland, Trine Bekkby, Kjersti Hasle Enerstvedt, Olav M Kvalheim, Eli Rinde, Monica Jordheim


Chemical ecology has been suggested as a less time-consuming and more cost-efficient monitoring tool of seagrass ecosystems than traditional methods. Phenolic chemistry in Zostera marina samples was analyzed against latitude, sea depth, sample position within a seagrass meadow (periphery or center) and wave exposure. Multivariate data analysis showed that rosmarinic acid correlated moderately positively with depth, while the flavonoids had an overall strong negative correlation with increasing depth—possibly reflecting lack of stress-induced conditions with increasing depth, rather than a different response to light conditions. At a molecular level, the flavonoids were separated into two groups; one group is well described by the variables of depth and wave exposure, and the other group that was not well described by these variables—the latter may reflect biosynthetic dependencies or other unrevealed factors. A higher flavonoid/rosmarinic acid ratio was seen in the periphery of a seagrass meadow, while the contrary ratio was seen in the center. This may reflect higher plant stress in the periphery of a meadow, and the flavonoid/rosmarinic acid ratio may provide a possible molecular index of seagrass ecosystem health. Further studies are needed before the full potential of using variation in phenolic chemistry as a seagrass ecosystem monitoring tool is established.