Recent (post-1930) changes in the extent of subtidal seagrass (Zostera muelleri) beds of the eastern Bay of Islands, New Zealand

posted on 02.09.2018 by John D. Booth

The surface areas of 12 subtidal seagrass Zostera muelleri beds at the islands and adjacent mainland shores of the eastern Bay of Islands (35° 12′ S, 174° 10′ E), New Zealand were estimated from aerial images. It appears that little subtidal seagrass existed until after the early-1950s, so significant beds here may be a relatively recent biome. Possible explanations for recent emergence of subtidal seagrass include that debilitating periods of turbid water and pulses of sedimentation associated with the land clearances of the late 1800s had worked through the marine ecosystem. An overall peak in seagrass-cover in the 1960s to 1980s was followed by declines in several beds in the 1990s to 2000s, with recovery since. The temporal presence of seagrass was well-correlated among the three mainland beds, and moderately well among the south-facing beds on the islands, consistent with mechanisms driving seagrass establishment and persistence operating at reasonably broad scales.