Alternate Title

Mesohaline Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Survey Along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Coast, 2001 and 2002: A Salinity Gradient Approach


Distribution of marine submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV; i.e., seagrass) in the northern Gulf of Mexico coast has been documented, but there are nonmarine submersed or SAV species occurring in estuarine salinities that have not been extensively reported. We sampled 276 SAV beds along the gulf coast in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas in 2001 and 2002 in oligohaline to polyhaline (0 to 36 parts per thousand) waters to determine estuarine SAV species distribution and identify mesohaline SAV communities. A total of 20 SAV and algal species was identified and habitat characteristics such as salinity, water depth, pH, conductivity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and sediment composition were collected. Fourteen SAV species occurred two or more times in our samples. The most frequently occurring species was Ruppia maritima L. (n = 148), occurring in over half of SAV beds sampled. Eleocharis sp. (n = 47), characterized with an emergent rather than submerged growth form, was a common genus in the SAV beds sampled. A common marine species was Halodule wrightii Asch. (n = 36). Nonindigenous species Myriophyllum spicatum L. (n = 31) and Hydrilla verticillata (L. f.) Royle (n = 6) were present only in oligohaline water. Analyzing species occurrence and environmental characteristics using canonical correspondence and two-way indicator species analysis, we identify five species assemblages distinguished primarily by salinity and depth. Our survey increases awareness of nonmarine SAV as a natural resource in the gulf, and provides baseline data for future research.