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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 418:119-130 (2010)  -  DOI:

Vulnerability of Zostera marina seedlings to physical stress

T. Valdemarsen*, P. Canal-Vergés, E. Kristensen, M. Holmer, M. D. Kristiansen, M. R. Flindt

Institute of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark

ABSTRACT: Eelgrass coverage in Odense Fjord (Denmark) has declined by 90% since 1983, due to eutrophication and its associated pressures, and the state of low eelgrass coverage has remained stable despite 10 to 15 yr of reduced nutrient loading and improved water quality. We hypothesize that the survival of eelgrass seedlings, and thus recolonization through reproductive dispersal, is negatively affected by physical disturbances. The 3 most likely physical mechanisms involved are uprooting or burial through drifting macroalgae, Arenicola marina sediment reworking and current-driven sediment resuspension. Our hypothesis was tested by field observations during the summer of 2009, when the mortality of seedlings was followed through time. The density of seedlings decreased dramatically by 80% during the first month of observations, and no seedlings survived past August, corresponding to an average seedling mortality of 1.5% d–1. This was >3 times higher than the mortality for seedlings protected from physical disturbance by enclosures (0.4% d–1), indicating that physical disturbance contributed to high seedling mortality. A significant correlation (p = 0.02) between macroalgal drift and seedling mortality suggested that ~40% of seedlings were lost due to the physical disturbance of drifting algae. In contrast, no correlations were found between A. marina reworking or resuspension and seedling mortality, despite a mobility of up to 400 cm3 sediment m–2 d–1 by these mechanisms. Given the observed intensity of macroalgal drift, we speculate that this mechanism severely hampers eelgrass reestablishment in certain parts of Odense Fjord.

KEY WORDS: Eelgrass · Macroalgal drift · Bedload transport · Fucus sp. · Sediment · Reworking · Resuspension · Arenicola marina

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Cite this article as: Valdemarsen T, Canal-Vergés P, Kristensen E, Holmer M, Kristiansen MD, Flindt MR (2010) Vulnerability of Zostera marina seedlings to physical stress. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 418:119-130.

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