FCE LTER Journal Articles


Benthic Macrophyte Distribution and Abundance in Estuarine Mangrove Lakes and Estuaries: Relationships to Environmental Variables


Annual mean salinity, light availability, and sediment depth to bedrock structured the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) communities in subtropical mangrove-lined estuaries. Three distinct SAV communities (i.e., Chara group, Halodule group, and Low SAV coverage group) were identified along the Everglades–Florida Bay ecotone and related to water quality using a discriminant function model that predicted the type of plant community at a given site from salinity, light availability, and sediment depth to bedrock. Mean salinity alone was able to correctly classify 78% of the sites and reliably separated the Chara group from the Halodule group. The addition of light availability and sediment depth to bedrock increased model accuracy to 90% and further distinguished the Chara group from the Halodule group. Light availability was uniquely valuable in separating the Chara group from the Low SAV coverage group. Regression analyses identified significant relationships between phosphorus concentration, phytoplankton abundance, and light availability and suggest that a decline in water transparency, associated with increasing salinity, may have also contributed to the historical decline of Chara communities in the region. This investigation applies relationships between environmental variables and SAV distribution and provides a case study into the application of these general principals to ecosystem management.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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