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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 732:53-71 (2024)  -  DOI:

Edge effects of a fragmented seagrass habitat on flow, bivalve recruitment, and sediment dynamics

Elise Turrietta, Matthew A. Reidenbach*

Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In both continuous and fragmented seagrass ecosystems, the vegetation edge can be a location of abrupt hydrodynamic change, with impacts to both ecological and physical processes. We address how flow and wave activity change across seagrass meadow edges and the effects of vegetation on sediment dynamics and bivalve recruitment. Two Zostera marina seagrass meadow sites were monitored: a high-density site with >500 shoots m-2 and a low-density site with <250 shoots m-2. Mean flow velocities were significantly reduced in seagrass vegetation adjacent to edges, with reductions compared to unvegetated areas ranging from 30-75%. Recruitment of juvenile bivalves was significantly elevated within vegetation. No significant differences in wave activity or sediment suspension and/or deposition were found spatially across a 10 m distance from a seagrass edge, but significant temporal variability was observed, caused by periodic storms. Wave height was a major predictor for sediment movement along seagrass edges, with an observed 10-fold increase in sediment collection within benthic traps following severe storms. These results were found across various heterogeneous edge configurations and reveal abrupt hydrodynamic responses of both mean flow and turbulence to occur at short spatial scales (1-10 m), with changes to wave and sediment deposition and/or suspension conditions only occurring over larger spatial distances (~100 m). Changes to the hydrodynamic regime were therefore found to be driven by meteorological conditions (e.g. winds, storms) on daily timescales and by changes in seagrass shoot density, altering both bivalve recruitment and sediment dynamics on longer temporal and/or spatial timescales.

KEY WORDS: Seagrass · Hydrodynamics · Bivalve larvae · Sediment resuspension · Fragmentation · Recruitment

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Cite this article as: Turrietta E, Reidenbach MA (2024) Edge effects of a fragmented seagrass habitat on flow, bivalve recruitment, and sediment dynamics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 732:53-71.

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