Role of Seagrass Beds as Food and Fishery Habitat in Port Everglades, Florida

Grant Winner

  • Amy C. Hirons, Ph.D.

Dean

  • Richard Dodge, Ph.D.

Abstract

Award Winners

Seagrasses form a habitat that is highly productive and ecologically important to a vast number of organisms. Seagrasses have higher diversity and productivity compared to unvegetated areas.

These communities provide a refuge from predators, nursery habitat for juvenile species, and a food source for organisms inhabiting the seagrass beds. This project will assess the trophic and refuge contribution of seagrass beds to vertebrates and invertebrates in Port Everglades, Florida.

Proposed plans to dredge and modify the turning basins, Intracoastal Waterway and the Dania cut-off canal (US Army Corps of Engineers contract no. DACW17-99-D-0043) may have significant impacts on the remaining submerged aquatic vegetation. The potential disruption and destruction of the seagrasses will have immediate ramifications on the marine organims that utilize the beds as nursery habitat and food source before moving offshore to the coral reefs and pelagic waters as adults. All of these areas are considered Essential Fish Habitat and Habitat

Areas of Particular Concern for some species located in the seagrass beds (EFH-HAPC)

(SAFMC 1998). Our project will identify the vertebrates and invertebrates inhabiting three seagrass sites in Port Everglades, FL (see Appendix A), and determine the trophic contribution of the flora and fauna to the food webs in the area. Samples will be collected using minnow traps, purse seine nets, and shallow sediment cores. The use of stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios will help determine these trophic linkages. Data analyses will include single and multiple analyses of variance (ANOVA, MANOVA), and non-parametric statistics. The results of this study are expected to yield ecological information pertinent to better understanding the overall contribution of seagrasses in these communities.