Flowering patterns for seagrass in Raglan Harbour

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1. Abstract

Seagrasses are highly important ecologically, not least because they serve as a nursery for juvenile fish. Zostera muelleri is native to New Zealand and our only species of seagrass. There is currently a lack of knowledge about the reproductive strategies of this species, particularly surrounding flowering and the release of seeds. We studied the summer-time flowering habits of intertidal Zostera muelleri in Raglan Harbour, sampling 7 sites at different locations in the harbour monthly from November 2015 to January 2016. At each site we quantified flowering spathe (inflorescence) density, seed bank density, plant biomass and leaf size. We also collected water samples to gauge salinity, turbidity and nutrient levels at each site. Light loggers were deployed at three sites to give an indication of the summer light climate experienced by seagrass beds in this harbour. We found that flowering took place during all months sampled, but at relatively low densities, and there were differences in the timing of flowering between sites. Flowers were most abundant in dense patches with larger plants which were often located in wet seeps or tide pools. The maximum inflorescence density found was 70/m2. We were unable to locate any seeds in sediment amongst flowering patches. Our results showed that plant biomass decreased after flowering was complete. The results of this study are an initial indication of the flowering patterns of Zostera muelleri in Raglan Harbour. They can be used to further research which will aid the management and conservation of New Zealand seagrass meadows

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