Dynamics of seagrasses and associated algae in coral reef lagoons

Brigitta I. van Tussenbroek

Resumen


Seagrass communities in tropical reef systems are situated in a distinct environmental setting than other seagrass beds around the world: they are exposed to high light intensities and low nutrient concentrations in carbonate sediments. Little is known about the forces which determine the community dynamics in these systems. Here we review studies realized over the last two decades at Puerto Morelos reef lagoon, Mexican Caribbean (Latitude 20o52´N) which highlight the dynamics of seagrasses and rooted macroalgae at time distinct frames. Daily fluctuations in physiology, growth and release of gametes or pollen are driven by light and possibly by herbivore pressure. Growth and sexual reproduction of the seagrasses and algae show seasonal patterns driven by the annual solar cycle. The temporal dynamics of the algae are more intense than those of the seagrasses, possibly due to their respective clonal expansion strategies and rates. Sexual recruitment serves to colonize cleared areas and maintains high genetic variability within populations as was shown for Thalassia testudinum. Hurricanes have a small effect on the seagrass-algal community, selectively removing certain species, but the foundation species T. testudinum and the main producer of calcareous sand Halimeda incrassata are resistant to hurricanes and full community recovery occurs within 2-3 y. Gradual but persistent changes in community structure (relatively more investment in above-ground biomass) and composition (higher relative dominance of faster growing species) reveal increasing input of nutrients in this originally considered pristine and oligotrophic habitat.

Palabras clave


Seagrasses; algae; coral reef lagoon

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