Epiphyte loads on seagrasses and microphytobenthos abundance are not reliable indicators of nutrient availability in oligotrophic coastal ecosystems
Despite marked gradients in nutrient availability that control the abundance and species composition of seagrasses in south Florida, and the importance of nutrient availability in controlling abundance and composition of epiphytes on seagrasses in other locations, we did not find that epiphyte load on the dominant seagrass, Thalassia testudinum, or that the relative contribution of algal epiphytes to the epiphyte community, was positively correlated with nutrient availability in the water column or the sediment in oligotrophic seagrass beds. Further, the abundance of microphytobenthos, as indicated by Chlorophyll-aconcentration in the sediments, was not directly correlated with concentrations of nutrients in the sediments. Our results suggest that epiphyte and microphytobenthos abundance are not unambiguous indicators of nutrient availability in relatively pristine seagrass environments, and therefore would make poor candidates for indicators of the status and trends of seagrass ecosystems in relatively low-nutrient environments like the Florida Keys.
Fourqurean, J.W., M.F. Muth, J.N. Boyer. 2010. Epiphyte loads on seagrasses and microphytobenthos abundance are not reliable indicators of nutrient availability in coastal ecosystems. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 971-983.