Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management
Morphological and growth characteristics of the meadow-forming seagrass Posidonia sinuosa (Cambridge et Kuo), were measured along a depth-related gradient of light to infer its response to long-term differences in light availability. Morphometric measurements were carried out at 6 depths between 1.6 and 9.0 m in summer and winter at Cockburn Sound and summer only at Warnbro Sound in south-western Australia. The minimum light requirement for P. sinuosa of 8.5% sub-surface light was among the lower range reported for seagrasses. Its slow growth rate (0.5–1.5 mgdry shoot–1 d–1), relative to similarly sized species, may contribute to the low light requirements of this species. Shoot density, leaf area index and biomass showed pronounced and consistent differences among depths (up to 88-fold reduction of above-ground biomass from shallow to deep sites). At the deeper sites, the reduced shoot density probably reduces respiratory demand and alleviates self-shading. Morphological differences (leaf length, width and thickness and number of leaves per shoot) did not follow a clear and consistent trend with depth. Despite a 70% reduction in light availability at the canopy level between the shallowest and deepest sites, leaf growth rate was unaffected by depth during summer, and in winter differed between only a few depths. We propose that the reduction in shoot density partially alleviates the effects of self-shading and permits comparable leaf growth rates across the depth range. These results suggest that for interpreting long-term responses to light availability, shoot density is the most sensitive of the morphological characteristics measured here.