The Effects of Simulated Green Turtle Grazing on the Caribbean Seagrass, Thalassia Testudinum
Conway-Cranos, Letitia L.
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Present carrying capacity estimations of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum for the green sea turtle Chelonia mydas do not take into account the decline over the last 500 years in population levels of the now endangered green turtle. This study, in efforts to correct this, simulated the grazing of historic populations of green turtles. I quantified the effects of this grazing on different physical attributes of seagrass bed structure, and compared the results with ungrazed seagrass growing under the same conditions. I then contrasted my results the effects of present populations of green turtles and with that of small grazers. I found marked differences in blade width, shoot density, and the number of blades per shoot. I also quantified the amount of detritus present in the bed to ascertain whether the decrease in green turtle population has prompted an increase in detritus-based food chains present in the seagrass bed. Results from this study can be used to make more accurate carrying capacity estimates for the green turtle, which can then be used to make educated decisions regarding the reintroduction of this species to the Caribbean. My study was conducted in the Bahamas at the Caribbean Marine Research Center from July 14, 1999 to September 2, 1999.