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Seagrasses and Sunlight: Rethinking Water Quality Measurements

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Photo of eelgrass growing in the water.

Around the world seagrasses are being lost. Turbidity is one factor that impedes their growth. However, in some places water quality has improved, but the grasses have not rebounded. SERC scientists wonder if a 'carpet of fluff'—a mix of organic and inorganic particles that floats just above the sediment—is blocking the sunlight seedlings need to grow. Photo: Tim Carruthers courtesy of IAN/UMCES.

Peculiar phenomena have always brought researchers together. For SERC senior scientist Chuck Gallegos and Danish PhD student Troels Møller Pedersen it was a mutual interest in the “carpet of fluff” that floats just above the sediment in estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay. The fluff is a soupy mix of organic and inorganic particles. These particles pose a problem to underwater vegetation because they cloud-out sunlight that the plants, particularly seedlings, need. No one has documented just how much light this layer blocks. Pedersen and Gallegos hope to change this.
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