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Water residence time controls the feedback between seagrass, sediment and light: Implications for restoration

Journal article
Authors M. P. Adams
M. Ghisalberti
R. J. Lowe
D. P. Callaghan
M. E. Baird
Eduardo Infantes
K. R. O'Brien
Published in Advances in Water Resources
Volume 117
Pages 14-26
ISSN 0309-1708
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of marine sciences
Pages 14-26
Language en
Keywords Alternative stable states, Bistability, Environmental management, Hydrodynamics, Macrophyte, Submerged aquatic vegetation, Feedback, Optical bistability, Restoration, Suspended sediments, Alternative stable state, Biological modeling, Environmental conditions, Macrophytes, Sediment settling, Submerged aquatic vegetations, Suspended sediment concentrations, Water residence time, Plants (botany)
Subject categories Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources


Feedbacks between seagrass and the local environmental conditions may hinder attempts to restore seagrass by inducing alternative stable states. A one-dimensional physical-biological model was used to identify the conditions under which a feedback between seagrass, sediment and light can yield alternative stable states of seagrass presence and absence (bistability). Based on our model results, a prediction of whether a given seagrass meadow is large enough to promote seagrass growth can now be made. If the water residence time within the spatial area of the meadow is similar to or greater than the sediment settling time, which is calculated from the ratio of water depth to sediment vertical settling velocity, the meadow is large enough for the feedback to potentially reduce the local suspended sediment concentration. This has important implications for seagrass restoration: for a proposed restoration plot, if the water residence time is similar to or greater than the sediment settling time, the scale of restoration is large enough for the feedback between seagrass, sediment and light to locally improve water clarity. More generally, this calculation can be used to identify areas where this feedback is likely to generate bistability, and to estimate the minimum suitable meadow size in such locations. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd

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