Capstone Title

A Review of Faunal Responses to Seagrass Habitat Impacts and the Effect of Mechanical Anthropogenic Disturbances

Defense Date

5-2012

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Amy C. Hirons

Second Advisor

Richard E. Spieler

Abstract

Seagrass habitats are one of the most productive ecosystems in the biosphere. They serve as soil stabilizers, wave bafflers, nutrient cyclers, food source, protection, nursery habitat for fauna, and habitat for epiphytic flora. Impacts on seagrass beds from human disturbances, such as boating and coastal development, are becoming more prevalent as urban coastal areas grow in population. As populations increase in these areas, so does the use of the shallow coastal waters where seagrass grow. Mechanical disturbances, such as those from boat propellers, anchoring, mooring buoys, trawling and dredging, all disrupt or remove seagrass vegetation from their locations. Impacts such as habitat fragmentation, which decrease the size of once continuous beds and increase the perimeter (edge) of patches, can have differing effects on the fauna that utilize seagrass beds. Consequently, epifauna, infauna and nekton have varying responses to changes in the landscape structure of seagrass beds. Conservation and management may be necessary to slow and prevent anthropogenic causes of habitat alteration.

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