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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


Drift macroalgae, often found in clumps or mats adjacent to or within seagrass beds, can increase the value of seagrass beds as habitat for nekton via added food resources and structural complexity. But, as algal biomass increases, it can also decrease light availability, inhibit faunal movements, smother benthic communities, and contribute to hypoxia, all of which can reduce nekton abundance. We quantified the abundance and distribution of drift macroalgae within seagrass meadows dominated by turtle grass Thalassia testudinum across the northern Gulf of Mexico and compared seagrass characteristics to macroalgal biomass and distribution. Drift macroalgae were most abundant in areas with higher seagrass shoot densities and intermediate canopy heights. We did not find significant relationships between algal biomass and point measures of salinity, temperature, or depth. The macroalgal genera Laurencia and Gracilaria were present across the study region, Agardhiella and Digenia were collected in the western Gulf of Mexico, and Acanthophora was collected in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Our survey revealed drift algae to be abundant and widespread throughout seagrass meadows in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which likely influences the habitat value of seagrass ecosystems.

Publication Title

PeerJ: Life and Environment

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