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Library Patterns of seagrass community response to local shoreline development

Patterns of seagrass community response to local shoreline development

Patterns of seagrass community response to local shoreline development

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Date of publication
December 2014
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ISBN / Resource ID

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.

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Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s)

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

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