STRUCTURE OF SEAGRASS BEDS (THALASSIA TESTUDINUM) ALONG A DEPTH GRADIENT IN LA GUAJIRA, COLOMBIAN CARIBBEAN.
The spatial distribution of seagrass beds depends on environmental factors such as light, temperature, salinity, substrate type, and nutrient availability. There is an extensive area of seagrass beds dominated by Thalassia testudinum along the shallow continental shelf of La Guajira, representing more than 80 % of the seagrass beds in Colombia. In order to describe seagrass distribution and its relation to organic matter, substrate type and depth structural variables of T. testudinum were measured at l5 locations placed at one of the following depth ranges: shallow (0-2 m), intermediate (2-4 m), and deep (>4 m). Shoot density was measured with 20 x 20 cm quadrants while shoot samples were collected from 20 x 10 cm sub-quadrants in order to measure leaf biomass, epiphyte weight, grazing and leaf area. Total biomass and sediment core were measured from sediments core samples. High values of shoot density (437.5 m-2), leaf biomass (84.8 g m-2), total biomass (5.9 kg m-2) and leaf area (24.8 cm2), were related with depths less than 3.5 m while at higher depths plants presented lower shoot density (137.5 m2), biomass (7.5 g m-2) and leaf area (4.6 cm2). The epiphyte weight registered high values in deeper seagrass beds (52.5 %) where grazing had lesser impact (53.3 %). Additionally, better devolped seagrass beds were found in areas of organic matter content, fine sediments and protected areas.
Thalassia testudinum; Vegetative structure; Environmental factors; Colombian Caribbean; La Guajira
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