The spatial modeling of the vegetative propagation of Thalassia testudinum
Pirchio, Melissa Lee
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I developed a spatially explicit model of Thalassia testudinum growth and vegetative propagation in Florida Bay. Thalassia is an ecologically important species in terms of primary production and habitat complexity; however, losses occur on many spatial scales, ranging from several meters to hundreds of kilometers. Recovery of disturbed meadows is primarily through vegetative elongation of the rhizomes. After 5-year simulations, the model produced annual maximum and minimum above-ground biomass values similar to those measured at monitoring locations within Florida Bay. Additionally, the model illustrated seagrass re-growth into bare patches and propagation away from vegetated patches into bare areas. The results suggest that considering the spatial dimension of seagrass growth can give modelers and those using the models more insight into the dynamics of vegetative propagation. Through sensitivity analysis of model output, I determined further research is needed on two important components of the plants: phosphorus uptake kinetics and resource allocation.