Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Effects of simulated green turtle regrazing on seagrass abundance, growth and nutritional status in Moreton Bay, south-east Queensland, Australia

Marianne Kuiper-Linley A , Craig R. Johnson B and Janet M. Lanyon A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

B School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: j.lanyon@uq.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 58(5) 492-503 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF06241
Submitted: 14 December 2006  Accepted: 5 April 2007   Published: 22 May 2007

Abstract

In some parts of their range, green turtles maintain grazing plots in seagrass beds by regular regrazing. The effects of simulated repeated grazing on subtropical seagrasses in Moreton Bay, Australia were investigated in a manipulative experiment over summer. Three seagrass species were subjected to two different clipping frequencies (simulating turtle cropping) and compared with unclipped controls over a 3.5-month summer period for the effects on seagrass biomass, leaf size and regrowth rates and water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) and starch content. The order of the seagrass species’ relative tolerance to simulated grazing was Halophila ovalis > Zostera capricorni > Cymodocea serrulata. Frequent regrazing of the green turtle’s preferred seagrass, H. ovalis, resulted in an increase in leaf regrowth rate so that standing biomass of leaves and total plant material was maintained, suggesting an increase in productivity. Furthermore, whole-plant concentrations of WSC increased significantly in clipped H. ovalis plants relative to unclipped controls. In contrast, leaf biomass of the seagrass species less preferred by turtles, Z. capricorni and C. serrulata, decreased in response to repeated leaf removal relative to controls, despite maintenance of leaf regrowth rates. C. serrulata responded to repeated clipping with a reduction in leaf size and a decrease in rhizome WSC concentration. Z. capricorni also produced fewer and smaller new leaves. The ability of the preferred species, H. ovalis, to increase production of nutrient-rich standing crop in response to regrazing has major implications for green turtles and other seagrass grazers.

Additional keywords: Chelonia mydas, disturbance, green turtle, regrazing, seagrass.


Acknowledgements

We thank Graham Bonnett, Richard Simpson and Hugh Dove (CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, ACT) for assistance with water-soluble carbohydrate and starch analyses; Shad, Vonika and Jack Linley for field assistance; and the School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland for financial support. This study reports on an Honours project by M.K.L.


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