Spatial and temporal pattern in seagrass community composition and productivity in south Florida
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We document the distribution and abundance of seagrasses, as well as the intra-annual temporal patterns in the abundance of seagrasses and the productivity of the nearshore dominant seagrass (Thalassia testudinum) in the south Florida region. At least one species of seagrass was present at 80.8% of 874 randomly chosen mapping sites, delimiting 12,800 km2 of seagrass beds in the 17,000-km2 survey area. Halophila decipiens had the greatest range in the study area; it was found to occur over 7,500 km2. The range of T. testudinum was almost as extensive (6,400 km2), followed by Syringodium filiforme (4,400 km2), Halodule wrightii (3,000 km2) and Halophila engelmanni (50 km2 ). The seasonal maxima of standing crop was about 32% higher than the yearly mean. The productivity of T. testudinum was both temporally and spatially variable. Yearly mean areal productivity averaged 0.70 g m−2day−1, with a range of 0.05–3.29 g m−2 day−1. Specific productivity ranged between 3.2 and 34.2 mg g−1 day−1, with a mean of 18.3 mg g−1 day−1. Annual peaks in specific productivity occurred in August, and minima in February. Integrating the standing crop for the study area gives an estimate of 1.4 × 1011 g T. testudinum and 3.6 × 1010 g S. filiforme, which translate to a yearly production of 9.4 × 1011 g T. testudinum leaves and 2.4 × 1011 g S. filiforme leaves. We assessed the efficacy of rapid visual surveys for estimating abundance of seagrasses in south Florida by comparing these results to measures of leaf biomass for T. testudinum and S. filiforme. Our rapid visual surveys proved useful for quantifying seagrass abundance, and the data presented in this paper serve as a benchmark against which future change in the system can be quantified.
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