The abundance and stoichiometry of aquatic plants are crucial for nutrient cycling and energy transfer in aquatic ecosystems. However, the interactive effects of multiple global environmental changes, including temperature rise and eutrophication, on aquatic plant stoichiometry and palatability remain largely unknown. Here, we hypothesized that (1) plant growth rates increase faster with rising temperature in nutrient-rich than nutrient-poor sediments; (2) plant carbon (C): nutrient ratios (nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)) respond differently to rising temperatures at contrasting nutrient conditions of the sediment; (3) external nutrient loading to the water column limits the growth of plants and decreases plant C:nutrient ratios; and that (4) changes in plant stoichiometry affect plant palatability. We used the common rooted submerged plant Vallisneria spiralis as a model species to test the effects of temperature and nutrient availability in both the sediment and the water column on plant growth and stoichiometry in a full-factorial experiment. The results confirmed that plants grew faster in nutrient-rich than nutrient-poor sediments with rising temperature, whereas external nutrient loading decreased the growth of plants due to competition by algae. The plant C: N and C: P ratios responded differently at different nutrient conditions to rising temperature. Rising temperature increased the metabolic rates of organisms, increased the nutrient availability in the sediment and enhanced plant growth. Plant growth was limited by a shortage of N in the nutrient-poor sediment and in the treatment with external nutrient loading to the water column, as a consequence, the limited plant growth caused an accumulation of P in the plants. Therefore, the effects of temperature on aquatic plant C:nutrient ratios did not only depend on the availability of the specific nutrients in the environment, but also on plant growth, which could result in either increased, unaltered or decreased plant C:nutrient ratios in response to temperature rise. Plant feeding trial assays with the generalist consumer Lymnaea stagnalis (Gastropoda) did not show effects of temperature or nutrient treatments on plant consumption rates. Overall, our results implicate that warming and eutrophication might interactively affect plant abundance and plant stoichiometry, and therefore influence nutrient cycling in aquatic ecosystems.
|Date made available||31 Jan 2020|