Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of Macroalgal Communities Along an Anthropogenic Salinity Gradient In Biscayne Bay (Florida, USA)

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


The seasonal and spatial dynamics of two groups of macroalgae, drift algae and rhizophytes, commonly found in tropical seagrass meadows were studied. The aim of this study was to provide insight into how freshwater discharges may be altering seagrass-dominated nearshore tropical habitats. Species composition, biomass, and percent cover of macroalgae were collected at six Thalassia testudinum König dominated sites within Biscayne Bay, Florida, representing three salinity regimes: canal-influenced, natural sheet-flow, and oceanic conditions. Mean annual salinities in these three regimes correspond to 10, 25 and 35 psu, respectively, with much greater variability in the canal and sheet-flow regimes, than in the oceanic condition. There were distinct changes in the composition of the macroalgal community along this salinity gradient. Drift algae (Chondria spp., Laurencia spp.) were most commonly found at canal-disturbed sites (10–85 g m−2), while rhizophytic calcareous green algae (Halimeda spp., Penicillus spp.) were most abundant at the higher salinity oceanic sites (20–105 g m−2). Seasonal patterns exhibited by the two groups differed also, with drift algae being more abundant in the cooler dry-season months, while rhizophytic algae were more abundant during the warmer wet-season months. These periods of higher abundance correlated with higher growth rates (drift = 2.3% day−1, rhizophytes = 0.85% day−1) measured in representative species for each group. Grazing rates on drift algae were found to be low for tropical habitats and did not differ much between canal (0.44% h−1) and oceanic sites (0.42% h−1).

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Aquatic Botany





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