Potential for seagrass restoration in Galveston Bay, Texas

1998 Feb
Hammerstrom K
Sheridan P
McMahan G
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Seagrass meadows were lost from West Bay, part of the Galveston Bay system, between 1956 and 1982 due apparently to acute and chronic effects of waterfront development and water quality degradation. Various transplanting methods and materials were used to determine whether Halodule wrightii and Ruppia maritima could be restored to the area since environmental conditions have improved. Plugs of Halodule in peat pots survived better than did bare root transplants. Faunal exclusion cages aided survival and growth of those transplants, but only when mesh size was small enough (< 3 cm) to block small fishes and decapods typical of West Bay that were observed to disturb transplants. Cages need to protect transplants 60-90 days to be effective. Enclosing propagules in cheesecloth bags may be more useful and less time-consuming than using plugs, more so for faster-growing Ruppia than for slower-growing Halodule. There were no indications that planting on 0.5 m vs. 1.0 m centers or in square vs. rectangular beds produced better survival. Halodule transplanted in peat pots on 0.5 m centers was able to survive over two years after removal of small mesh cages. Transplanting Halodule was effective only during April-August, but Ruppia grew quickly and produced seeds within 47 days after planting in September. Mixed transplants of Ruppia and Halodule could be advantageous, as the annual Ruppia is able to spread rapidly and stabilize a transplant site whereas the perennial Halodule spreads more slowly but becomes the dominant species over time. In the future, seagrasses can be transplanted successfully into western Galveston Bay if certain precautions are taken to insure survival and growth