Seasonal changes in the abundance and distribution of submerged aquatic vegetation in a highly managed coastal lagoon

D. Lirman, G. Deangelo, J. Serafy, A. Hazra, D. Smith Hazra, J. Herlan, J. Luo, S. Bellmund, J. Wang, R. Clausing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The inflow of fresh water into coastal lagoons is a key factor influencing the structure and function of these ecosystems. Biscayne Bay, a coastal lagoon adjacent to the city of Miami, is located downstream of the Everglades ecosystem where the extensive water management system now in place has modified the historical hydrology, replacing groundwater and overland flows with pulsed releases from canals. In areas where canals discharge directly into littoral habitats, an environment with low-mean salinity and high-salinity variability is created. In this study, we characterize the salinity patterns of nearshore habitats (<500 m from shore) and document patterns of seasonal abundance and distribution of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) to evaluate the impacts of water management practices. Seagrasses were the principal component of the SAV community during the 2005 dry season (mean cover = 25.5%), while macroalgae dominated during the wet season (mean cover = 33.4%). The distribution and abundance of SAV were directly related to the tolerance of each taxon to salinity patterns. Seagrass species with high tolerance to low and variable salinity such as Halodule wrightii and Ruppia maritima were found only in canal-influenced areas and increased in abundance and spatial distribution in the wet season when freshwater inflow is highest. The dominance of rhizophytic macroalgae during the wet season was determined by the appearance and high abundance of Chara, a taxon commonly associated with freshwater environments. Thalassia testudinum, the most abundant seagrass species, was found throughout the study region, but decreased in abundance in the canal-influenced areas during the wet season when lower, more variable salinity resulted in lowered productivity. The data presented here showed a significant relationship between salinity patterns and the seasonal abundance and distribution of SAV. These findings support the use of SAV as appropriate indicators of changes in water quality resulting from future restoration projects associated with the Everglades Restoration Plan, which will once again modify the delivery of fresh water into littoral habitats with unknown ecological consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-120
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Freshwater canals
  • Macroalgae
  • Salinity patterns
  • SAV
  • Seagrass
  • Water management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Pollution
  • Water Science and Technology


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