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Decomposition rate and invertebrate colonization of seagrass detritus along a hydrodynamic gradient in a Mediterranean coastal basin: The Stagnone di Marsala (Italy) case study


Seagrass leaf litter decomposition is a key component of marine carbon flow driven by both biotic and abiotic factors, including water movement. In this study, we analyse Posidonia oceanica litter decomposition and invertebrate colonization in three sites with different hydrodynamics in a coastal basin. Litterbags were put on the sea bed along a gradient of distance from the open sea, implying a different level of water exchange. Leaf litter mass loss and carbon and nitrogen concentration were analysed, and density and biomass of benthic invertebrates colonizing litterbags were recorded after 3, 7, 14, 47, 101, 152 and 221 days. Results showed that in the most sheltered site, the leaf litter decomposition rate, the invertebrate density and biomass and the detrital carbon release were the lowest. The reduction of the decomposition rates of seagrass leaves in the site characterized by low hydrodynamic forces may promote organic matter burial and carbon stocks, emphasizing the role of coastal basins such as ponds and lagoons as sinks of carbon and the important role of seagrass detritus in the Blue Carbon global balance.