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Corpus Systématique Animale

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Thalassia testudinum productivity and grazing by green turtles in a highly disturbed seagrass bed

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Springer (journals)
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  • S. L. Williams
  • Friday Harbor Laboratories, 620 University Road, 98250, Friday Harbor, Washington, USA

There has been an historical decline in the seagrass beds in Maho and Francis Bays, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: presently (1986) there are only five small seagrass beds in shallows water. These seagrass beds are highly disturbed by heavy boat usage and are intensively grazed by the green turtle Chelonia mydas L. Fifteen to 50 boats anchor each night in the bays: anchor scars cause a loss of up to 6.5 m2 d-1 or 1.8% yr-1 of the seagrass beds. Seagrasses regrew into such scars only minimally within a period of 7 mo. The size of the green turtle population was estimated at 50 subadults and their feeding behavior was determined by direct observation and radiotelemetry. The behavior of the green turtles differed from other observations published on the species. Here, the turtles grazed all available Thalassia testudinum, their preferred seagrass food, rather than creating discrete grazing scars, and spent all their waking hours (9 h per day) feeding. Areal productivity of T. testudinum leaves (33 to 97 mg dry wt m-2d-1) in the bays was at least an order of magnitude lower than published values or than the productivity of another, lessdisturbed seagrass bed on St. John, despite having comparable leaf-shoot density. Leaf shoots were stunted, fragile, achlorotic, and had only two leaves as opposed to the five leaves per shoot more typically seen. The green turtle population was near the estimated carrying capacity of T. testudinum, based on the standing crop and productivity of T. testudinum and the grazing rate of the turtles. The effect of disturbance of T. testudinum from boats and turtles was assessed by excluding these with emergent fences. Within 3 mo of protection, the areal and shoot-specific productivity of T. testudinum leaves as well as leaf size increased significantly compared to unprotected areas. Conservation efforts are recommended in Maho Bays and Francis because seagrass productivity is low, disturbance rates are higher than recovery rates, the turtles cannot increase further their feeding rate in order to compensate for such factors, and there are few alternate sources of T. testudinum on the north shore of St. John.

Catégories Science-Metrix
  • 1 - natural sciences
  • 2 - biology
  • 3 - marine biology & hydrobiology
Catégories INIST
  • 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
  • 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
  • 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie
Catégories Scopus
  • 1 - Physical Sciences ; 2 - Environmental Science ; 3 - Ecology
  • 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Aquatic Science
  • 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Catégories WoS
  • 1 - science ; 2 - marine & freshwater biology
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Marine Biology

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