March 2013
Florida Scientist;Spring2013, Vol. 76 Issue 2, p107
Academic Journal
Seagrasses are important to estuarine health, influencing physical, chemical and biological environments of coastal waters. Seagrasses stabilize sediments, filter nutrients, and provide habitat for estuarine organisms. Understanding seagrass distribution and trends relative to freshwater input aids resource management. From 1996-2009, hydroacoustic technology was used to assess spatial and temporal fluctuations in seagrass coverage of the Caloosahatchee River Estuary relative to annual rainfall. Three estuarine areas, with different salinity regimes and species composition, were monitored three times a year for percent seagrass coverage and plant height. Sampling was performed at the beginning (spring), middle (summer), and end (fall) of the seagrass growing season. Results showed that seagrass percent coverage, percent volume infestation and plant height increased with distance downstream. All three parameters were greatest in summer, intermediate in fall and lowest during spring months. Annual rainfall influenced seagrass abundance differently. During average and wet years, seagrass measurements were greatest in summer, while in dry years measurements were similar in summer and fall. Study results indicated that seagrasses in the Caloosahatchee River Estuary are sensitive to inter-annual changes in rainfall. While there is considerable year to year variation, seagrass coverage has been relatively stable over the 13 year study period.


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