Habitat quality assessment of seagrass communities with potential impacts from shipping activity




Jimenez, Jorge
Pinon, Carissa
Hamilton, Austin
Kerr, Colin
Cammarata, Kirk

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Industrial activity can alter environmental conditions in a variety of ways that affect seagrass communities and associated fauna. Seagrass beds near Ingleside On The Bay, TX are potentially impacted through increased sedimentation and reduced light penetration. A habitat quality assessment aimed to compare seagrass and animal indicators along an expected gradient of shipping disturbances which affect sedimenta- tion. Seagrass metrics including species composition, shoot morphology, and biomass described the seagrass meadow condition at each sample site. Epiphytic biota and biomass data provide additional seagrass condi- tion context. Higher trophic level organisms, and predation intensity (presence or absence of higher trophic level organisms) are observed using squid pops, comprised of squid pieces (~1cm^2 in size) tied along trot lines deployed in a cardinal direction pattern at each sample site. Preliminary observations found seasonal variation in predation activity, observed as a sudden decline in feeding activity with decreasing water temper- ature. Sites in disturbed areas displayed higher feeding activity, particularly in areas with mixed composition of seagrass species relative to monotypic seagrass species sites in undisturbed areas. Feeding activity is ex- pected to increase with seasonally warmer water temperatures. More intensive feeding is expected in areas with dense seagrass beds away from potential disturbance gradient. Identification of epiphytic biota through DNA barcode sequencing will provide more detailed understanding of the faunal diversity in disturbed and undisturbed areas.



seagrass, seagrass indicator, epibiota, animal indicator, squid pop