Sargassum as a Natural Solution to Enhance Dune Plant Growth

Abstract

Many beach management practices focus on creating an attractive environment for tourists, but can detrimentally affect long-term dune integrity. One such practice is mechanical beach raking in which the wrack line is removed from the beach front. In Texas, Sargassum fluitans and natans, types of brown alga, are the main components of wrack and may provide a subsidy to the ecosystem. In this study, we used greenhouse studies to test the hypothesis that the addition of sargassum can increase soil nutrients and produce increased growth in dune plants. We also conducted an analysis of the nutrients in the sargassum to determine the mechanisms responsible for any growth enhancement. Panicum amarum showed significant enhancement of growth with the addition of sargassum, and while Helianthus debilis, Ipomoea stolonifera, Sporobolus virginicus, and Uniola paniculata responded slightly differently to the specific treatments, none were impaired by the addition of sargassum. In general, plants seemed to respond well to unwashed sargassum and multiple additions of sargassum, indicating that plants may have adapted to capitalize on the subsidy in its natural state directly from the ocean. For coastal managers, the use of sargassum as a fertilizer could be a positive, natural, and efficient method of dealing with the accumulation of wrack on the beach.

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Acknowledgments

This article was funded in part by grants/cooperative agreements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Award Nos. NA06NOS4190219 and NA05NOS4191064) and the Texas General Land Office (Nos. 07‐005‐10 and 06-019). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or any of its sub-agencies. We would like to thank Starr Lozada-Bernard and Sarah Haller for help with the greenhouse experiment, David Nannen for his revisions and Tim Rogers for his work on the nutrients analysis.

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Correspondence to Amy Williams.

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Williams, A., Feagin, R. Sargassum as a Natural Solution to Enhance Dune Plant Growth. Environmental Management 46, 738–747 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-010-9558-3

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Keywords

  • Panicum amarum
  • Sargassum
  • Dunes
  • Nutrient analysis
  • Beach management
  • Raking