Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date

4-27-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Samuel Purkis

Second Advisor

Matthew Johnston

Third Advisor

Bernhard Riegl

Abstract

Seagrass meadows offshore Ras Ghanada, as elsewhere, are an important component to the ecosystem providing numerous benefits to both aquatic and human life. This work focused on mapping the spatial and temporal distribution of seagrass meadows offshore Ras Ghanada using aerial photography acquired in 1996 and high-resolution satellite images captured in 2006 and 2012. The movements of sand shoals were also tracked, so as to further explain the dynamics of this ecosystem, as it is the area between the shoal crests that hosts the best developed seagrass meadows. The natural limiting factor for seagrass on the Ras Ghanada coastal shelf seems to be the fact that they cannot inhabit the (mobile) crests of the sand shoals, but rather, are restricted to the (more stable) sands of the shoal troughs. In the considered time period, both sand shoals and seagrass meadows migrated predominantly in a southeastern direction. The changes of seagrass that occurred in this study occurred on a fairly rapid timescale, in such that they were able to come back when there was disturbance as long as they had available habitat to move into. Furthermore, although seagrass cover declined by 3.4% from 1996 – 2012, there was a greater increase than decline in the areal coverage of seagrass post-Khalifa port construction in 2010. If sediments offshore Ras Ghanada can remain stable and the waters are not polluted by further construction, seagrasses should continue to thrive in the future.

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