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Surviving in Changing Seascapes: Sediment Dynamics as Bottleneck for Long-Term Seagrass Presence
Suykerbuyk, W.; Bouma, T.J.; Govers, L.L.; Giesen, K.; de Jong, D.J.; Herman, P.M.J.; Hendriks, J.; van Katwijk, M.M. (2016). Surviving in Changing Seascapes: Sediment Dynamics as Bottleneck for Long-Term Seagrass Presence. Ecosystems 19(2): 296-310.
In: Ecosystems. Springer: New York, NY. ISSN 1432-9840; e-ISSN 1435-0629, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Zostera noltii; seagrass; Arenicola marina; sediment dynamics; sediment stability; persistence; changing seascapes; feedback loops

Auteurs  Top 
  • Suykerbuyk, W.
  • Bouma, T.J., meer
  • Govers, L.L.
  • Giesen, K.
  • de Jong, D.J., meer
  • Herman, P.M.J., meer
  • Hendriks, J.
  • van Katwijk, M.M., meer

    Changes in the seascape often result in altered hydrodynamics that lead to coinciding changes in sediment dynamics. Little is known on how altered sediment dynamics affect long-term seagrass persistence. We studied the thresholds of sediment dynamics in relation to seagrass presence by comparing sediment characteristics and seagrass presence data of seven separate seagrass meadows. All meadows had a long-term (>20 years) presence. Within these meadows, we distinguish so-called “hotspots” (areas within a meadow where seagrass was found during all mapping campaigns) and “coldspots” (with infrequent seagrass presence). We monitored static sediment characteristics (median grain size, bulk density, silt content) and sediment dynamics (that is, bed level change and maximum sediment disturbance depth), bioturbation (that is, lugworm densities and induced fecal pit and mound relief), and seagrass cover. We statistically analyzed which sediment characteristic best explains seagrass cover. Densely vegetated hotspots were shown to have lower sediment dynamics than sparsely vegetated hotspots and coldspots, whereas static sediment characteristics were similar (grain size, bulk density). The vegetation cover was either low (2–15%) or high (>30%) and sediment dynamics showed a threshold for vegetation cover. From this correlative finding, we postulate a self-sustaining feedback of relatively dense seagrass via sediment stabilization and accordingly a runaway feedback once the seagrass cover becomes too sparse. The sensitivity for sediment dynamics shown in our study implies that future existence of seagrass meadows may be at risk as ongoing climate change might directly (increased environmental extremes) or indirectly (changing seascapes) negatively affect seagrass beds.

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