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The Impact of Hurricane Georges on Soft-Bottom, Back Reef Communitites: Site- and Species-Specific Effects in South Florida Seagrass Beds

By James W. Fourqurean and Leanne M. Rutten


Seagrass beds are the dominant benthic marine communities in the back reef environment of the Florida Keys. At a network of 30 permanent monitoring stations in this back reef environment, the seagrass Thalassia testudinum Banks & Soland. ex Koenig was the most common marine macrophyte, but the seagrasses Syringodium fi liforme Kuetz., and Halodule wrightii Aschers., as well as many taxa of macroalgae, were also commonly encountered. The calcareous green macroalgae, especially Halimeda spp. and Penicillus spp., were the most common macroalgae. The passage of Hurricane Georges on September 25, 1998 caused an immediate loss of 3% of the density of T. testudinum, compared to 19% of the S. fi liforme and 24% of the calcareous green algae. The seagrass beds at three of the stations were completely obliterated by the storm. Stations that had little to moderate sediment deposition recovered from the storm within 1 yr, while the station buried by 50 cm of sediment and the two stations that experienced substantial erosion had recovered very little during the 3 yrs after the storm. Early colonizers to these severely disturbed sites were calcareous green algae. Hurricanes may increase benthic macrophyte diversity by creating disturbed patches with the landscape, but moderate storm disturbance may actually reduce macrophyte diversity by removing the early successional species from mixed-species seagrass beds

Publisher: FIU Digital Commons
Year: 2004
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