Photoadaptation and Growth of Zostera marina L (Eelgrass) Transplants Along a Depth Gradient
Photosynthetic and growth responses were assessed in Zostera marina L. transplants within and beyond the natural extent of an eelgrass meadow in Great Harbor, Woods Hole, MA. Transplant survival and rapid growth inshore of the shallow edge of the meadow (0.5 and 0.8 m water depth) indicated a periodic disturbance factor maintaining the shallow edge of the meadow. Transplant mortality, reduced growth, and a negative carbon balance of eelgrass transplanted offshore the deep edge of the meadow (7 and 10m) supported the hypothesis of light-limited eelgrass growth in the deep regions of the Great Harbor meadow. Photoadaptive responses occurred along the water depth gradient, and both photosynthesis and growth responses were used to assess the genetic vs. phenotypic components of eelgrass response to the water depth gradient. Reciprocal transplants between shallow (1.3 m) and deep (5.5 m) areas within the eelgrass meadow indicated photosynthetic and growth responses were primarily a result of growth habitat rather than genetic differentiation within the eelgrass meadow.