Geomorphological and sedimentological surrogates for the understanding of seagrass distribution within a temperate nearshore setting (Esperance Western Australia)
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© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Seagrass meadows are important benthic habitats contributing to many aspects of ecological community health, beach stability and sediment supply. Relationships between morpho-sedimentary features and distribution of seagrass meadows were investigated through an integrated analysis of geomorphology, sediments and benthic habitat structure in a temperate nearshore setting (Esperance Bay, Western Australia). The results demonstrate that seagrass distribution is related to gradients in sediment texture and composition, hydrodynamics and human impact. Dense seagrass meadows occurred in more sheltered regions of the bay, whereas sparser vegetation was found in areas of higher wave energy and artificial activities (like ship anchoring and dredging activities). A preferential retention of heavier siliciclastic sediments was recorded in the seagrass meadows especially in areas with high sediment supply resulting in elevated beds and formation of intermates. Sediment characteristics suggest that carbonate sediment is transported onshore from the seagrass meadow supplying the beach system. The combined analyses of geomorphological features and sediment characteristics at Esperance have allowed identification of a prevalent eastward oriented sediment transport current. Seagrass beds are confirmed to be a sediment source in terms of sediment budget contributing to beach stability. Integrated geomorphological data, sediment analyses and benthic habitat mapping provide useful information for the management of coastal environments characterized by the presence of seagrass meadows by providing new insights on coastal processes.
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