Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Biology

Major Professor

Susan S. Bell, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Florence I.M. Thomas, Ph.D.

Keywords

Thalassia testudinum, Water flow, Fauna, Particle accumulation, Artificial seagrass units

Abstract

Many coastal ecosystems around the world are dominated by submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitats. These SAV habitats are known to provide many highly valuable ecosystem services such as habitat for commercial important species and increased water clarity. Water flow is an environmental variable which can have measurable effects on the ecosystem services provided by SAV, but is often not considered in studies assessing these services. This dissertation sought to investigate the links between SAV, primarily seagrasses, and hydrodynamics, paying special attention to the effects on sediments and fauna. Three main areas are discussed: (1) the effects of SAV on flow, (2) the effects of SAV and flow on deposition in SAV beds, and (3) the effects of SAV and flow on faunal communities in SAV beds. Seagrasses and other SAV reduce currents, attenuate waves, and dampen turbulence within their vegetative canopies, which in turn can enhance deposition and reduce the resuspension of sediment, organic matter, and passively settling larvae. The ability of SAV to retard flow may be further enhanced by increases in vegetated structure, such as shoot density, biomass, or canopy height, which can promote increased abundance and diversity of in- and epifauna within SAV beds. Ultimately, it is clear that hydrodynamics is an important factor that shapes SAV communities both physically (e.g. deposition, sediment structure, etc.) and biologically (e.g. faunal community composition, predation pressure, food availability, etc.).

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