MEPS 557:111-121 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11847

Functional implications of changes in seagrass species composition in two shallow coastal lagoons

Bart Christiaen1,*, John C. Lehrter2, Joshua Goff 3, Just Cebrian3,4

1Washington Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA 98504, USA
2US EPA, Gulf Ecology Division, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561, USA
3Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA
4University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36608, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: While the consequences of losing seagrass meadows are well known, there is less information on the functional implications of changes in seagrass species composition. In this study, we use data from a long-term monitoring project in shallow lagoons on the Florida Gulf Coast to assess changes in the functional attributes of seagrass beds during a shift in seagrass species composition. We compare seagrass beds in 2 neighboring lagoons with different trends: one where the composition changed from 100% Halodule wrightii to a mixed bed with up to 60% Ruppia maritima, and one where the species composition remained unchanged. Our results indicate that the partial replacement of H. wrightii by R. maritima did not alter seagrass biomass m-2, detrital biomass m-2, benthic gross primary production, or benthic respiration. However, there was a small positive effect on benthic net primary production. While seagrass biomass m-2 declined at both sites, the emergence of R. maritima increased the amount of available habitat through rapid expansion. Overall, our data suggest that shifts between 2 seagrass species with similar morphology, but different ecological strategies, may have little impact on the ecosystem services of seagrass beds in shallow coastal lagoons.


KEY WORDS: Ruppia maritima · Halodule wrightii · Seagrass · Species shift · Ecosystem metabolism


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Cite this article as: Christiaen B, Lehrter JC, Goff J, Cebrian J (2016) Functional implications of changes in seagrass species composition in two shallow coastal lagoons. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 557:111-121. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11847

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