Forecasting Responses of Seagrass Distributions to Changing Water Quality Using Monitoring Data
Extensive data sets on water quality and seagrass distributions in Florida Bay have been assembled under complementary, but independent, monitoring programs. This paper presents the landscape-scale results from these monitoring programs and outlines a method for exploring the relationships between two such data sets. Seagrass species occurrence and abundance data were used to define eight benthic habitat classes from 677 sampling locations in Florida Bay. Water quality data from 28 monitoring stations spread across the Bay were used to construct a discriminant function model that assigned a probability of a given benthic habitat class occurring for a given combination of water quality variables. Mean salinity, salinity variability, the amount of light reaching the benthos, sediment depth, and mean nutrient concentrations were important predictor variables in the discriminant function model. Using a cross-validated classification scheme, this discriminant function identified the most likely benthic habitat type as the actual habitat type in most cases. The model predicted that the distribution of benthic habitat types in Florida Bay would likely change if water quality and water delivery were changed by human engineering of freshwater discharge from the Everglades. Specifically, an increase in the seasonal delivery of freshwater to Florida Bay should cause an expansion of seagrass beds dominated by Ruppia maritima and Halodule wrightii at the expense of the Thalassia testudinum-dominated community that now occurs in northeast Florida Bay. These statistical techniques should prove useful for predicting landscape-scale changes in community composition in diverse systems where communities are in quasi-equilibrium with environmental drivers.
Fourqurean, J.W., J.N. Boyer, M.J. Durako, L.N. Hefty, B.J. Peterson. 2003. Forecasting the response of seagrass distribution to changing water quality: statistical models from monitoring data. Ecological Applications 13(2): 474-489.