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Coupling of Seagrass (Cymodocea Nodosa) Patch Dynamics to Subaqueous dune Migration

Nuria Marba and Carlos M. Duarte
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 83, No. 3 (Jun., 1995), pp. 381-389
DOI: 10.2307/2261592
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2261592
Page Count: 9
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Coupling of Seagrass (Cymodocea Nodosa) Patch Dynamics to Subaqueous dune Migration
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Abstract

1 The coupling between patch dynamics -- described by the patch growth (horizontal and vertical), patch mortality, and life-history of Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria) Aschers., and the disturbance caused by the migration of subaqueous dunes over the plants was examined in a shallow NW Mediterranean bay (Alfacs Bay) where this species maintains a patchy cover. 2 C. nodosa shoots survived substantial burial rates (up to 2.4 mm day$^{-1}$) by growing vertically at rates proportional to, albeit four-fold slower than, burial rates. Patch death was caused by erosion as large subaqueous dunes migrated pass the plant patch. 3 Patch growth was fastest over the progressing slope of the dunes ($\sim$ 2.5 m year$^{-1}$) and flowering was also stimulated by sand accretion. 4 The time interval between the passage of consecutive dunes, which sets the time window available for patch development, ranged between 2 and 6 years. This time interval allowed C. nodosa to recolonize bare substrata, with patch formation occurring about half a year after the disturbance, and also allowed established shoots to complete their life-cycle and produce seeds and thus enable subsequent recolonization. The time windows available for patch development also set an upper limit to patch size of about 26 m. 5 Significant cross correlations between dune topography and patch dynamics and plant flowering frequency provide evidence that the spatial heterogeneity in the vegetation is closely associated with the disturbance imposed by the migration of sand dunes. The migration of subaqueous dunes maintains C. nodosa in a continuous state of colonization involving spatially asynchronous patch growth and subsequent mortality, which is ultimately responsible for the characteristic patchy landscape of this Bay.

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