HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Amy C. Hirons

Second Advisor

Dimitrios Giarikos

Third Advisor

Andre Daniels


Seagrass beds are among the most ecologically important systems in the marine environment. They provide the primary production to nearby coral reef and mangrove communities, and seagrasses comprise a large component of the diets of many marine organisms including fishes, small invertebrate species, and many protected species such as manatees and sea turtles. This consumption provides a pathway for many contaminants to enter the marine food web via the seagrasses. The coastal location of seagrass beds causes them to be especially susceptible to anthropogenic pollution, including accumulation of heavy metals, which has been shown to have many adverse health effects in the seagrasses and marine organisms that feed on them. This study assessed the heavy metal concentrations of seagrasses in three regional locations in South Florida: Port of Miami, Card Sound Aquatic Preserve, and Florida Bay. Three species of seagrasses, Thalassia testudinum, Halodule wrightii, and Syringodium filiforme, which comprise the majority of South Florida seagrass beds, were collected monthly for a period of one year and analyzed for ten heavy metals: (arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), mercury (Hg), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), selenium (Se), zinc (Zn)). Concentrations were compared across locations, season, species, and plant part (leaves, shoots, roots, and rhizomes). Concentration ranges, in µg/g (ppm), found in seagrass tissues for all included locations, species, and plant parts were: As (0.02-2.95), Cd (0.09-10.72), Cu (0.38-33.68), Fe (1.52-1877.43), Pb (0.78-156.20), Mn (0.79-300.15), Hg (0.03-16.46), Ni (0.67-87.74), Se (0.01-4.79), Zn (1.48-669.44). Statistical analysis showed significant difference in concentrations among locations, season, species, and plant morphology.