Magnitude and Patterns of Change in Submerged Aquatic Vegetation of the Tidal Freshwater Hudson River
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- Findlay, S.E.G., Strayer, D.L., Smith, S.D. et al. Estuaries and Coasts (2014) 37: 1233. doi:10.1007/s12237-013-9758-1
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Three aerial photography inventories were used to examine change in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the tidal freshwater Hudson River over the interval 1997 to 2007. Overall, there was about a 30 % net decline in SAV coverage although there were also many individual areas of expansion. The invasive water chestnut (Trapa natans) did not change appreciably in net cover over the interval, and there was replacement of SAV by water chestnut along with slightly fewer cases of SAV replacing the exotic. A fine-scale (100 m by 100 m quadrats) analysis showed that about 30 % of quadrats that supported vegetation changed by more than 10 % in plant cover and overall SAV was quite dynamic. SAV in the Hudson is limited by light which is in turn controlled by suspended sediment. SAV was rarely found at depths >1 m below low water, and interannual differences in clarity affected the ability of SAV beds to maintain locally supersaturated levels of dissolved oxygen. We found that location within the River channel (proximity to shore) influenced the magnitude and variability in change in SAV between census periods. The physical nature of the adjacent shoreline also affected the magnitude of change with greater declines in cover in areas next to hard-engineered shore types. SAV in the Hudson is highly dynamic, apparently quite resilient, and the control of light by suspended sediment rather than phytoplankton growth offers a contrast to eutrophication-influenced changes in other estuaries. Management and protection of SAV habitat must recognize the highly variable nature of plant cover and that absence in any particular year does not preclude future appearance of submerged plants at that location.