Establishing tropical seagrass light requirements in a dynamic port environment

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Australia, 9-13 July 2012, 2012
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Tropical seagrasses inhabit naturally turbid waters with dynamic light environments and variable water quality in coastal waters adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Large tidal fluxes amplify the magnitude of these conditions with extreme high and low light over relatively short time scales (i.e. hours). Large port developments in the region have the potential to confound the complex relationships between seagrass physiology and this dynamic light field with the onset of dredging and their associated turbid plumes. Understanding the capacity for seagrasses to respond to changes in the quantity and quality of the light environment will allow for prediction of how seagrass species and populations will tolerate changes in light attenuation that may occur during dredging. We present a strategy for determining seasonal-specific light requirements for an intertidal tropical seagrass community in a port environment. Locally relevant light requirements are established by describing the relationships among photosynthetic inputs and losses, tidal exposure, shifts in spectral light quality, seasonality and the capacity to utilise below ground carbon reserves. The outcomes of the study provide guidelines for a mitigation strategy that is focused on maintaining critical windows of light to support seagrass growth and the longer term survival of these productive coastal ecosystems.
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