The role epiphytes play in particle capture of seagrass canopies

Seagrass epiphytic communities act as ecological indicators of the quality status of vegetated coastal environments. This study aims to determine the effect leaf epiphytes has on the sediment capture and distribution from outside sources. Thirteen laboratory experiments were conducted under a wave frequency of 0.5 Hz. Three epiphyte models were attached to a Zostera marina canopy of 100 plants/m2 density. The sediment deposited to the seabed, captured by the epiphytic leaf surface, and remaining in suspension within the canopy were quantified. This study demonstrated that the amount of epiphytes impacts on the sediment stocks. Zostera marina canopies with high epiphytic areas and long effective leaf heights may increase the sediment captured on the epiphyte surfaces. Also, reducing suspended sediment and increasing the deposition to the seabed, therefore enhancing the clarity of the water column. For largest epiphytic areas, a 34.5% increase of captured sediment mass is observed. The sediment trapped on the leaves can be 10 times greater for canopies with the highest epiphytic areas than those without epiphytes. Therefore, both the effective leaf length and the level of epiphytic colonization are found to determine the seagrass canopy ability at distributing sediment ​
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