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Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) cover has declined in brackish lakes in the southern Everglades characterized by low water transparencies, emphasizing the need to evaluate the suitability of the aquatic medium for SAV growth and to identify the light attenuating components that contribute most to light attenuation. Underwater attenuation of downwards irradiance of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) was determined over a three year period at 42 sites in shallow (<2 m depth) mangrove-surrounded lakes in two sub-estuaries in the coastal Everglades, Florida USA. Turbidity, chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and phytoplankton chlorophyll a (chl a) were measured concurrently and their respective contributions to the light attenuation rate were estimated. Light transmission to the benthos relative to literature estimates of minimum requirements for SAV growth indicated that the underwater light environment was often unsuitable for SAV. Light attenuation rates (n = 417) corrected for solar elevation angles ranged from 0.16 m-1 to 9.83 m-1 with a mean of 1.73 m-1. High concentrations of CDOM with high specific light absorption contributed the most to light attenuation followed by turbidity and chl a. CDOM alone sufficiently reduces light transmission beyond the estimated limits for SAV growth, making it difficult for ecosystem managers to increase SAV abundance by management activities. Light limitation of SAV in these areas may be a persistent feature because of their proximity to CDOM source materials from the surrounding mangrove swamp. Increasing freshwater flow into these areas may dilute CDOM concentrations and improve the salinity and light climate for SAV communities.
Frankovich, Thomas A.; Rudnick, David T.; and Fourqurean, James W., "Light Attenuation in Estuarine Mangrove Lakes" (2017). Center for Coastal Oceans Research Faculty Publications. 30.
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