Seagrass Planting in the Southeastern United States: Methods for Accelerating Habitat Development

Authors

  • Mark S. Fonseca,

    1. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Beaufort Laboratory, Beaufort, NC 28516, U.S.A.
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  • W. J. Kenworthy,

    1. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Beaufort Laboratory, Beaufort, NC 28516, U.S.A.
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  • F. X. Courtney,

    1. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Marine Research Institute, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, U.S.A.
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  • M. O. Hall

    1. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Marine Research Institute, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, U.S.A.
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Abstract

Seagrass transplanting experiments were conducted in Back Sound, Carteret County, North Carolina, and Tampa Bay, Pinellas County, Florida. In Florida, we compared three planting methods (cores, stapled bare root, and peat-pot plugs) for shoot addition rate coverage, and labor cost (harvest, fabrication, and deployment) using Halodule wrightii. Only planting methods and development rates were recorded for Syringodium filiforme. Fertilizer additions were made to peat-pot plantings of H. wrightii and Zostera marina in both North Carolina and Florida. Exclosure cages were tested to attempt to minimize bioturbation of H. wrightii and Z. marina in both North Carolina and Florida. Recovery from harvesting impacts to existing, natural beds of S. filiforme and H. wrightii were assessed in Florida. The peat-pot method was about 35% and 63% less expensive in work time than staples and core tubes, respectively. Response to fertilizer additions was masked by inconsistent release properties of the fertilizer, although some indication of positive response to phosphorus fertilizer in sediments with low carbonate content, and nitrogen in general, was detected. Complete loss of peat pots, largely ascribed to bioturbation, occurred in a large planting (Tampa Bay) but not in nearby smaller ones where exclosure cages were used. Cages did not affect planting unit survival in North Carolina but did improve number of shoots per planting unit in one of three experiments. No detrimental effects of cages were noted. Existing natura beds used to harvest transplanting stock in Tampa Bay recovered from excavations as large as 0.5 m2 in one year. Significant cost savings were found to be possible through methodological improvement, including planting techniques, bioturbation exclusion, and possibly fertilizer additions.

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