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Light thresholds derived from seagrass loss in the coastal zone of the northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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Collier, C. J., Waycott, M. and McKenzie, L. J. (2012) Light thresholds derived from seagrass loss in the coastal zone of the northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Ecological Indicators, 23 . pp. 211-219. ISSN 1470-160X

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2012.04.005


There is a world-wide trend for deteriorating water quality and light levels in the coastal zone, and this has been linked to declines in seagrass abundance. Localized management of seagrass meadow health requires that water quality guidelines for meeting seagrass growth requirements are available. Tropical seagrass meadows are diverse and can be highly dynamic and we have used this dynamism to identify light thresholds in multi-specific meadows dominated by Halodule uninervis in the northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Seagrass cover was measured at similar to 3 month intervals from 2008 to 2011 at three sites: Magnetic Island (MI) Dunk Island (DI) and Green Island (GI). Photosynthetically active radiation was continuously measured within the seagrass canopy, and three light metrics were derived. Complete seagrass loss occurred at MI and DI and at these sites changes in seagrass cover were correlated with the three light metrics. Mean daily irradiance (I-d) above 5 and 8.4 mol m(-2) d(-1) was associated with gains in seagrass at MI and DI, however a significant correlation (R = 0.649, p < 0.05) only occurred at MI. The second metric, percent of days below 3 mol m(-2) d(-1), correlated the most strongly (MI, R = -0.714, p < 0.01 and DI, R = -0.859, p = <0.001) with change in seagrass cover with 16-18% of days below 3 mol m(-2) d(-1) being associated with more than 50% seagrass loss. The third metric, the number of hours of light saturated irradiance (H-sat) was calculated using literature-derived data on saturating irradiance (E-k). H-sat correlated well (R = 0.686, p <0.01; and DI, R = 0.704, p < 0.05) with change in seagrass abundance, and was very consistent between the two sites as 4 H-sat was associated with increases in seagrass abundance at both sites, and less than 4 H-sat with more than 50% loss. At the third site (GI), small seasonal losses of seagrass quickly recovered during the growth season and the light metrics did not correlate (p > 0.05) with change in percent cover, except for I-d which was always high, but correlated with change in seagrass cover. Although distinct light thresholds were observed, the departure from threshold values was also important. For example, light levels that are well below the thresholds resulted in more severe loss of seagrass than those just below the threshold. Environmental managers aiming to achieve optimal seagrass growth conditions can use these threshold light metrics as guidelines; however, other environmental conditions, including seasonally varying temperature and nutrient availability, will influence seagrass responses above and below these thresholds. (C) 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > By region or country > Australia > Great Barrier Reef
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Seagrasses
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery conservation
Live Archive:04 Sep 2013 02:22
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:49

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