Low Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Seagrass Community Structure and Functioning in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Abstract:Hurricanes are large-scale disturbances with the potential to exert extensive damage in coastal ecosystems. On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina catastrophically impacted a large area of the Gulf of Mexico spreading from coastal Alabama to Louisiana. For five months before hurricane landfall we were assessing the structure and functioning of a mixed seagrass bed located in an area greatly affected by the hurricane. The storm provided an opportunity to assess the effect of a large-scale disturbance on the structure and functioning of that seagrass bed. A comparison of surveys before and after the hurricane showed no decreases in seagrass density, associated fauna, or the microalgal abundance in the water column and sediment. We found no major impact on gross primary productivity, respiration, or net productivity of the water column or the sediment, suggesting that the hurricane had little impact on the metabolism of the seagrass bed studied. Overall, natural temporal changes recorded before the storm were larger than any post-hurricane changes. These findings indicate that this seagrass meadow was naturally highly dynamic and very resistant to Hurricane Katrina.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2009-07-01
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