The short-term influence of herbivory near patch reefs varies between seagrass species
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The coexistence of multiple species within a trophic level can be regulated by consumer preferences and nutrient supply, but the influence of these factors on the co-occurrence of seagrass species is not well understood. We examined the biomass and density responses of two seagrass species in the Florida Keys Reef Tract to grazing pressure near patch reefs, and evaluated how nutrient enrichment impacted herbivory dynamics. We transplanted Halodule wrightii (shoalgrass) sprigs into caged and uncaged plots in a Thalassia testudinum (turtlegrass) bed near a patch reef. Nutrients (N and P) were added to half of the experimental plots. We recorded changes in seagrass shoot density, and after three months, we measured above- and belowground biomass and tissue nutrient content of both species. Herbivory immediately and strongly impacted H. wrightii. Within six days of transplantation, herbivory reduced the density of uncaged H. wrightii by over 80%, resulting in a decrease in above- and belowground biomass of nearly an order of magnitude. T. testudinum shoot density and belowground biomass were not affected by herbivory, but aboveground biomass and leaf surface area were higher within cages, suggesting that although herbivory influenced both seagrass species, T. testudinum was more resistant to herbivory pressure than H. wrightii. Nutrient addition did not alter herbivory rates or the biomass of either species over the short-term duration of this study. In both species, nutrient addition had little effect on the tissue nutrient content of seagrass leaves, and N:P was near the 30:1 threshold that suggested a balance between N and P. The different impacts of grazing on these two seagrass species suggest that herbivory may be an important regulator of the distribution of multiple seagrass species near herbivore refuges like patch reefs in the Caribbean. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
author list (cited authors)
Armitage, A. R., & Fourqurean, J. W.