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Ecosystem engineering by annual intertidal seagrass beds: Sediment accretion and modification

Bos, A.R. and Bouma, T.J. and Kort de, G.L.J. and Katwijk van, M. (2007) Ecosystem engineering by annual intertidal seagrass beds: Sediment accretion and modification. Estuaries and Coasts, 74, 344-348. ISSN 1559-2723.

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Seagrasses are generally known as ecosystem engineers, as they reduce flow velocities in their canopies. In perennial subtidal meadows, this usually leads to increased net sedimentation rates and reduction of the grain size. The present study aims to describe the contribution of annual seagrass populations to these processes and elucidate the temporal dynamics. Sediment accretion and grain size modification were experimentally tested by transplanting seedlings of an annual intertidal eelgrass population to an unvegetated tidal flat. Within the planting units (79 shoots m−2) 4.7 mm of sediment accreted, whereas in the most dense parts of these units (199 shoots m−2) accretion amounted to 7.1 mm. The silt fraction (<63 μm) increased and the sand fraction (63–500 μm) decreased in the eelgrass beds, which provides evidence that higher silt content in seagrass beds is the result and not the cause of seagrass presence. Annual intertidal eelgrass beds significantly contribute to the immobilisation of sediment during the growing season with its magnitude depending on canopy density. During winter, the accumulated sediments were released again and could even induce additional erosion. Possible consequences of these sediment dynamics for the larger scale functioning of estuarine ecosystems are discussed.

Item Type:Article
Institutes:Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO)
ID Code:4648
Deposited On:16 Sep 2009 02:00
Last Modified:24 Apr 2012 16:47

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