, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 592-602

Productivity and biomass of the seagrassThalassia testudinum along a gradient of freshwater influence in Charlotte Harbor, Florida

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Abstract

Eight meadows of the seagrassThalassia testudinum Banks ex König representing a gradient of freshwater influence in Charlotte Harbor, Florida (United States), were sampled on a bimonthly basis from April 1995 to August 1996. Spatial and temporal variation in the density, biomass, productivity, and epiphyte loads of short shoots were determined. Physical factors such as water temperature, salinity, and light extinction coefficients were also measured. Areal blade production (g dw m−2 d−1) ofT. testudinum was not strongly associated with water temperature, salinity, or the amount of subsurface irradiance reaching the bottom at each station. Variation in production could be described by a linear combination of the independent variables water temperature and salinity. Water clarity (expressed as the percent of subsurface irradiance reaching the bottom) was positively related to salinity. The lack of a clear relationship between water clarity and areal production was probably due to water clarity being highest during times of the year when water temperatures were too cold to support growth ofT. testudinum. Our results suggest that seagrass light requirements determined by averaging irradiance levels measured during the growing season might be more relevant than those established by averaging light measurements collected throughout the year. The use of field studies for estimating lower salinity tolerances of seagrasses might be inappropriate for those systems where water clarity is positively associated with salinity.