Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 188–201 | Cite as

Phosphorus Availability and Salinity Control Productivity and Demography of the Seagrass Thalassia testudinum in Florida Bay

  • Darrell A. Herbert
  • James W. Fourqurean


Biomass, net primary productivity (NPP), foliar elemental content, and demography of Thalassia testudinum were monitored in populations from five sites across Florida Bay beginning in January 2001. Sites were selected to take advantage of the spatial variability in phosphorus (P) availability and salinity climates across the bay. Aboveground biomass and NPP of T. testudinum were determined five to six times annually. Short-shoot demography, belowground biomass, and belowground NPP were assessed from a single destructive harvest at each site and short-shoot cohorts were estimated from leaf scar counts multiplied by site-specific leaf production rates. Biomass, relative growth rate (RGR), and overall NPP were positively correlated with P availability. Additionally, a positive correlation between P availability and the ratio of photosynthetic to non-photosynthetic biomass suggests that T. testudinum increases allocation to aboveground biomass as P availability increases. Population turnover increased with P availability, evident in positive correlations of recruitment and mortality rates with P availability. Departures from seasonally modeled estimates of RGR were found to be influenced by salinity, which depressed RGR when below 20 psu or above 40 psu. Freshwater management in the headwaters of Florida Bay will alter salinity and nutrient climates. It is becoming clear that such changes will affect T. testudinum, with likely feedbacks on ecosystem structure, function, and habitat quality.


Seagrass Productivity Demography Phosphorus Salinity Long-term monitoring 



Much of the field data were collected by Rebecca Bernard, Dorothy Byron, Virginia Cornett, Kevin Cunniff, and Bryan Dewsbury. Susie Escorcia and Pamela Parker oversaw the laboratory analyses. We thank Marguerite Koch and anonymous reviewers for thoughtful comments. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation as part of the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program (Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514) as well as a cooperative agreement with Everglades National Park (J5284-07-0029) and a grant from Florida Sea Grant (UF08029). This is contribution no. 408 of the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Fairchild Tropical Botanic GardenCoral GablesUSA

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