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  1. Although seagrass ecosystems are valued for the services they provide, anthropogenic impacts have led to global declines in seagrass area. South Florida harbors one of the most extensive and iconic seagrass landscapes in the world, but historic seagrass losses appeared to threaten their integrity. The establishment of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in 1995 created a benthic community and water quality monitoring network to aid management efforts. With this study, we report on the status and trajectories of benthic communities in South Florida using 25 years of monitoring data. Overall, most of our permanent monitoring sites maintained stable benthic communities over the period of observation. However, for areas that did experience decline, we identified mechanisms for loss of the climax seagrass Thalassia testudinum in the FKNMS with no or only partial recovery over decadal timescales. We observed a shift towards fast-growing Halodule wrightii meadows at anthropogenically nutrient-enriched nearshore sites along the Florida Keys. In addition, we describe almost complete loss of seagrass meadows at some exposed, back-reef sites offshore from the Florida Keys resulting from physical disturbance by major hurricanes. This study demonstrates the utility of long-term monitoring programs for the identification of benthic community trajectories and theirmore »putative drivers on the seascape scale, offering valuable lessons for the design of future seagrass monitoring programs.« less
  2. Subtropical seagrass meadows play a major role in the coastal carbon cycle, but the nature of air–water CO2 exchanges over these ecosystems is still poorly understood. The complex physical forcing of air–water exchange in coastal waters challenges our ability to quantify bulk exchanges of CO2 and water (evaporation), emphasizing the need for direct measurements. We describe the first direct measurements of evaporation and CO2 flux over a calcifying seagrass meadow near Bob Allen Keys, Florida. Over the 78‐d study, CO2 emissions were 36% greater during the day than at night, and the site was a net CO2 source to the atmosphere of 0.27 ± 0.17 μmol m−2 s−1 (x̅ ± standard deviation). A quarter (23%) of the diurnal variability in CO2 flux was caused by the effect of changing water temperature on gas solubility. Furthermore, evaporation rates were ~ 10 times greater than precipitation, causing a 14% increase in salinity, a potential precursor of seagrass die‐offs. Evaporation rates were not correlated with solar radiation, but instead with air–water temperature gradient and wind shear. We also confirm the role of convective forcing on night‐time enhancement and day‐time suppression of gas transfer. At this site, temperature trends are regulated by solar heating, combined with shallow water depth and relativelymore »consistent air temperature. Our findings indicate that evaporation and air–water CO2 exchange over shallow, tropical, and subtropical seagrass ecosystems may be fundamentally different than in submerged vegetated environments elsewhere, in part due to the complex physical forcing of coastal air–sea gas transfer.« less
  3. Abstract. The net ecosystem productivity (NEP) of two seagrassmeadows within one of the largest seagrass ecosystems in the world, FloridaBay, was assessed using direct measurements over consecutive diel cyclesduring a short study in the fall of 2018. We report significant differencesbetween NEP determined by dissolved inorganic carbon (NEPDIC) and bydissolved oxygen (NEPDO), likely driven by differences in air–water gasexchange and contrasting responses to variations in light intensity. We alsoacknowledge the impact of advective exchange on metabolic calculations ofNEP and net ecosystem calcification (NEC) using the “open-water” approachand attempt to quantify this effect. In this first direct determination ofNEPDIC in seagrass, we found that both seagrass ecosystems were netheterotrophic, on average, despite large differences in seagrass netabove-ground primary productivity. NEC was also negative, indicating thatboth sites were net dissolving carbonate minerals. We suggest that acombination of carbonate dissolution and respiration in sediments exceededseagrass primary production and calcification, supporting our negative NEPand NEC measurements. However, given the limited spatial (two sites) andtemporal (8 d) extent of this study, our results may not berepresentative of Florida Bay as a whole and may be season-specific. Theresults of this study highlight the need for better temporal resolution,accurate carbonate chemistry accounting, and an improved understanding ofphysical mixingmore »processes in future seagrass metabolism studies.« less