Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 1549–1561 | Cite as

Patterns of seagrass community response to local shoreline development

  • Rachael E. Blake
  • J. Emmett Duffy
  • J. Paul Richardson


Three quarters of the global human population will live in coastal areas in the coming decades and will continue to develop these areas as population density increases. Anthropogenic stressors from this coastal development may lead to fragmented habitats, altered food webs, changes in sediment characteristics, and loss of near-shore vegetated habitats. Seagrass systems are important vegetated estuarine habitats that are vulnerable to anthropogenic stressors, but provide valuable ecosystem functions. Key to maintaining these habitats that filter water, stabilize sediments, and provide refuge to juvenile animals is an understanding of the impacts of local coastal development. To assess development impacts in seagrass communities, we surveyed 20 seagrass beds in lower Chesapeake Bay, VA. We sampled primary producers, consumers, water quality, and sediment characteristics in seagrass beds, and characterized development along the adjacent shoreline using land cover data. Overall, we could not detect effects of local coastal development on these seagrass communities. Seagrass biomass varied only between sites, and was positively correlated with sediment organic matter. Epiphytic algal biomass and epibiont (epifauna and epiphyte) community composition varied between western and eastern regions of the bay. But, neither eelgrass (Zostera marina) leaf nitrogen (a proxy for integrated nitrogen loading), crustacean grazer biomass, epifaunal predator abundance, nor fish and crab abundance differed significantly among sites or regions. Overall, factors operating on different scales appear to drive primary producers, seagrass-associated faunal communities, and sediment properties in these important submerged vegetated habitats in lower Chesapeake Bay.


Zostera marina Seagrass Development Stressors Grazers Predators Nutrients Sediments 



Special thanks to M. Fabrizio for her advice. Thanks to E. Ferer, H. McIntosh, A. Moore, C. Smoot, M. Whalen, and numerous others for their invaluable assistance with field and lab work, and to K. Sobocinski for providing valuable comments on this manuscript. Part of this research was conducted in the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Virginia with funding for this study from a Graduate Research Fellowship from the Estuarine Reserves Division, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is Contribution No. 3343 of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary.

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachael E. Blake
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. Emmett Duffy
    • 1
  • J. Paul Richardson
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceCollege of William & MaryGloucester PointUSA
  2. 2.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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