Capstone Title

Assessing Marine Pollution Through Heavy Metal Uptake in Seagrass

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Donald McCorquodale

Second Advisor

Curtis M. Burney


Metal pollution in the marine environment has become a global concern. Seagrasses use some heavy metals as micronutrients to complete their metabolic processes. When metals become bioavailable in high concentrations they become toxic to the plants and can contribute to seagrass decline in the marine ecosystem. Through the review of published literature on the subject of metal toxicity in seagrass, this capstone report investigates the practical use of seagrass as a bioindicator of metal pollution. Also if that indicator can be used to pin-point sources of pollutants entering a watershed. Three studies conducted in the global regions that have produced most of the world’s seagrass publications (Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Australia’s pacific coast) are discussed in this paper, and represent the current findings in the use of seagrass as a bioindicator. Seagrass has the ability to accumulate toxic metal concentrations and provide a long term view of pollution problems as opposed to water and sediment sampling. Seagrass plant material shows a higher concentration of metals when compared to adjacent un-vegetated sediments. Metal concentrations in seagrass can also be variable based on seasonality and proximity to anthropogenic influences. Seagrass has the ability to acclimate itself to chronic low doses of heavy metal pollution. Several confounding variables contribute to use of seagrass meal content as first step assessment of an area, and make it difficult to find point sources of pollution.

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