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Distribution and seasonal biomass of drift macroalgae in the Indian River Lagoon (Florida, USA) estimated with acoustic seafloor classification (QTCView, Echoplus)

Author(s): Riegl BM, Moyer RP, Morris LJ, Virnstein RW, Purkis SJ


Three areas of the Indian River Lagoon, Florida (USA) were surveyed to show seasonal changes in the distribution and biomass of macroalgae and seagrass. Acoustic seafloor discrimination based on first and second echo returns of a 50 kHz and 200 kHz signal, and two different survey systems (QTCView and ECHOplus) were used. System verification in both the field and a controlled environment showed it was possible to distinguish acoustically between seagrass, sparse algae, and dense algae. Accuracy of distinction of three classes (algae, seagrass, bare substratum) was around 60%. Maps were produced by regridding the survey area to a regular grid and using a nearest-neighbor interpolation to provide filled polygons. Biomass was calculated by counting pixels assigned to substratum classes with known wet-weight biomass values (sparse algae 250 g m− 2, dense algae 2000 g m− 2, seagrass 100 g m− 2) that were measured in the field. In three study areas (Melbourne, Sebastian Inlet, and Cocoa Beach), a dependence of algal biomass on depth and season was observed. Seagrass most frequently occurred in water less than 1 m deep, and in November, seagrass beds tended to be covered by dense algae that also extended up- and downstream of shoals in the Lagoon. In March, the pattern was similar, with the exception that some areas of previously dense algae had started thinning into sparse algae. Macrophyte biomass was lowest in May in the Melbourne and Cocoa Beach study areas, with the opposite situation in the Sebastian Inlet study area. In May, seagrass areas were largely devoid of dense algae and most algae accumulations were sparse. In August, dense algae covered large areas of the deep Lagoon floor while shoals were largely free of algae or had only sparse cover. We suggest this summer pattern to reflect moribund algae being washed from the shallows to deeper channels and from there being removed from the lagoonal ecosystem either through tidal passages into the open ocean or by degradation and breakdown in situ. The differences between the study areas indicate high spatial and temporal variability in biomass and distribution of macrophyte biomass in the Indian River Lagoon.

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