Landscape-level seagrass-sediment relations in a coastal lagoon

Document Type


Date of Original Version



We investigated the relationships between sediment (subaqueous soil) properties and eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) distribution to develop landscape-level soil-based strategies for choosing eelgrass restoration locations. Subaqueous soils were sampled and eelgrass cover determined for 14 soil-landscape units within a 116 ha area of Ninigret Pond, a coastal lagoon in Rhode Island, USA. Of the 14 soil-landscape units sampled for eelgrass cover, 52% had virtually no eelgrass cover (<10%), while 18% had high eelgrass cover (>90%). The Lagoon Bottom, Shallow Lagoon Bottom, Flood-tidal Delta Slope, and Barrier Cove subaqueous soil-landscape units had the highest eelgrass cover (66-100%). A weak relationship between eelgrass cover and water depths (r 2 = 0.10) was observed suggesting that properties other than water depth may also control eelgrass distribution. Subaqueous soils on landscapes with >60% eelgrass cover had relatively high levels of acid-volatile sulfides (>90 μg/g), high soil salinity levels (34-44 ppt), fine textures (silt loam), and relatively high total nitrogen levels (>0.15%). Four principal components accounted for 81% of the variability in eelgrass cover. The first component reflected particle-size distribution (i.e. sand, silt, and clay contents) effects and accounted for 43% of the variability. The other components suggested that eelgrass cover is correlated to carbonaceous remains, non-calcareous rock fragments and soil salinity. These data suggest that the current distribution of eelgrass within the study area is strongly influenced by physical and chemical subaqueous soil characteristics. Soil survey techniques proved useful for the delineation of sediment characteristics (e.g. texture, salinity) that influence eelgrass distribution patterns at landscape-level scales. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Aquatic Botany