Seagrass is Awesome!
On day 4 at Vester Marine Station Dr. Douglass taught us all about seagrass and different monitoring methods. We started the morning off in the classroom learning about how beneficial seagrass is to the ecosystem as it acts as a filter to clean the water. Seagrass is sometimes referred to as a physical comb because it settles particles and creates cleaner water. It also traps sediment with its root system and removes carbon dioxide from the water. The carbon dioxide then is stored in the peat layer of the roots which is a CO2 sink. Seagrass beds also enhance biodiversity and production because all types of species call it their home. We then learned about 7 different species that we could possibly find out in the field later that day which included: Thalassia testudinium, Syringodium filiforme, Halodule wrightii, Ruppia maritima, Halophila englemanni, Halophila decipiens, and Halophila johnsonii. Seagrass in general prefers soft bottom, low nutrients, and needs a lot of light to survive. Sadly it is affected by many anthropogenic influences, so humans play a large role in seagrass survival. Changes in water quality, climate change, prop scarring, and overfishing are just a few of the ways that humans can degrade the continuation of this beautiful plant. After learning as much seagrass information as we could stuff in our bused rains, we loaded up on boats and headed out into Estero Bay to do some in-water monitoring methods. We stopped at 5 different sites that were said to have seagrass beds according to aerial photographs taken a few years back. We used 2 quadrats and 1 quadzilla at each site to measure the distribution, density, and diversity of the seagrasses. We also found a cute pufferfish! (picture below) It was really cool to see how the monitoring is actually done in the field. We got first hand experience collecting data and seeing how well the aerial photographs actually worked. It was pretty cool and Vester was awesome!! Thank you Dr. Douglass and all the other professors that taught us this week!!