Thresholds for morphological response to light reduction for four tropical seagrass species

Collier, C.J., Adams, M.P., Langlois, L., Waycott, M., O'Brien, K.R., Maxwell, P.S., and McKenzie, L. (2016) Thresholds for morphological response to light reduction for four tropical seagrass species. Ecological Indicators, 67. pp. 358-366.

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Seagrasses worldwide are highly vulnerable to, and at increasing risk from reduced light availability, and robust light thresholds are required for evaluating future impacts of changing light conditions. We tested the morphological response (shoot density and growth) of four Indo-West Pacific seagrass species(Cymodocea serrulata, Halodule uninervis, Halophila ovalis and Zostera muelleri) to six daily light levels ranging from 0 to 23 mol m⁻²d⁻¹ (0–70% surface irradiance) in cool (∼23◦C) and warm temperatures(∼28◦C) over 14 weeks. The impact of light limitation on shoot densities and growth rates was higher at warm than at cool temperatures, and for Z. muelleri and H. ovalis than for C. serrulata and H. uninervis,in terms of both the time taken for the low light treatment to take effect and the predicted time to shoot loss (e.g. 17–143 days at 0 mol m⁻²d⁻¹). Using fitted curves we estimated temperature-dependent thresholds (with estimates of uncertainty) for 50% and 80% protection of growth and shoot density, defined here as “potential light thresholds” in recognition that they were derived under experimental conditions. Potential light thresholds that maintained 50% and 80% of seagrass shoot density fell within the ranges 1.1–5.7 mol m⁻²d⁻¹ and 3.8–10.4 mol m⁻²d⁻¹, respectively, depending on temperature and species. Light thresholds calculated in separate in situ studies for two of the same species produced comparable results. We propose that the upper (rounded) values of 6 mol m⁻²d⁻¹ and 10 mol m⁻²d⁻¹ can be used as potential light thresholds for protecting 50% and 80% of shoot density for these four species over 14 weeks. As management guidelines should always be more conservative than thresholds for biological declines, we used error estimates to provide a quantitative method for converting potential light thresholds into guidelines that satisfy this criterion. The present study demonstrates a new approach to deriving potential light thresholds for acute impacts, describes how they can be applied in management guidelines and quantifies the timescales of seagrass decline in response to light limitation. This method can be used to further quantify cumulative impacts on potential light thresholds.

Item ID: 44730
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-7034
Keywords: Great Barrier Reef, water quality, photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD), light thresholds, temperature
Funders: National Environmental Research Program (NERP) Tropical Ecosystems Hub
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2016 05:32
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3108 Plant biology > 310801 Phycology (incl. marine grasses) @ 80%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410299 Ecological applications not elsewhere classified @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
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