Blade motion and nutrient flux to the kelp, Eisenia arborea

by Mark Denny, Loretta Roberson
Biological Bulletin ()


Marine algae rely on currents and waves to replenish the nutrients required for photosynthesis. The interaction of algal blades with flow often involves dynamic reorientations of the blade surface (pitching and flapping) that may in turn affect nutrient flux. As a first step toward understanding the consequences of blade motion, we explore the effect of oscillatory pitching on the flux to a flat plate and to two morphologies of the kelp Eisenia arborea. In slow flow (equivalent to a water velocity of 2.7 cm s(-1)), pitching increases the time-averaged flux to both kelp morphologies, but not to the plate. In fast flow (equivalent to 20 cm s(-1) in water), pitching has negligible effect on flux regardless of shape. For many aspects of flux, the flat plate is a reliable model for the flow-protected algal blade, but predictions made from the plate would substantially underestimate the flux to the flow-exposed blade. These measurements highlight the complexities of flow-related nutrient transport and the need to understand better the dynamic interactions among nutrient flux, blade motion, blade morphology, and water flow.

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