, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 936-947

Functional trajectory models for assessment of transplanted eelgrass,Zostera marina L., in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire

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Abstract

Functional trajectory models were used to assess the restoration of ecological functions in two transplanted eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) beds compared to three natural, reference beds in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hamsphire. Functional trajectory models describe the development of ecological functions over time in restored habitats relative to levels of function in natural habitats. We present the first application of trajectory models to transplanted seagrass and evaluate the utility of these models as a tool for assessing seagrass restoration. The project was an analysis of 9 yr of monitoring data, the longest monitoring of transplanted eelgrass to date. We used trajectory models to assess the time course of development of functions in transplanted beds by evaluating statistical trends, and to determine functional equivalence, defined as the time when functions in a transplanted bed reach an asymptote and are no more than 1 standard deviation below the reference mean. The functions modeled included primary production, 3-dimensional habitat structure, faunal use, and sediment filtering and trapping. Measured proxies for primary production and habitat structure increased logistically (sigmoidally) with time, reaching functional equivalence after 3 yr. In transplanted beds, trends in habitat use by infaunal invertebrates and fish were logarithmic, and values were functionally equivalent 2–4 yr after transplanting. We saw no trend in sediment filtering and trapping capacity of transplanted eelgrass over the 9 yr. Measures of function in both reference and transplanted beds fluctuated due to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. After reaching equivalence, measures of function in transplanted beds tracked those in reference beds, exhibiting long-term persistence and rebounding from disturbances similarly to reference beds. Trajectory models can illustrate the time course of eelgrass bed development, aiding the design of monitoring programs and the evaluation of ecological functional equivalence in seagrass restoration projects.