Alternate Title

Mesohaline Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Survey Along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Coast, 2000: A Stratified Random Approach


Estimates of submerged aquatic vegetative (SAV) along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) generally focus on seagrasses. In 2000, we attempted a synoptic survey of SAV in the mesohaline (5–20 ppt) zone of estuarine and nearshore areas of the northeastern Gulf. Areas with SAV were identified from existing aerial 1992 photography, and a literature review was used to select those areas that were likely to experience mesohaline conditions during the growing season. In 2000, a drought year, we visited 217 randomly selected SAV beds and collected data on species composition and environmental conditions. In general, sites were either clearly polyhaline (≥ 20 ppt) or oligohaline (≤ 5 ppt), with only five sites measuring between 5 and 20 ppt. Ruppia maritima L. (13–35 ppt, n = 28) was the only species that occurred in mesohaline salinities. Halodule wrightii Asch. occurred in 73% of the beds. The nonindigenous Myriophyllum spicatum L. was present in four locations with salinities below 3 ppt. No nonindigenous macroalgae were identified, and no nonindigenous angiosperms occurred in salinities above 3 ppt. Selecting sample locations based on historical salinity data was not a successful strategy for surveying SAV in mesohaline systems, particularly during a drought year. Our ability to locate SAV beds within 50 m of their aerially located position 8 yr later demonstrates some SAV stability in the highly variable conditions of the study area.