Interactions between an estuarine submersed plant bed and its physical and biogeochemical environment: Seasonal and spatial variation

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Annual cycles of growth and morphology were analyzed in a bed of the canopy-forming submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) species, Stuckenia pectinata, in relation to seasonal water quality conditions in a Chesapeake Bay tributary. A rapid accumulation of aboveground plant material occurred during the spring period of high water clarity, which aided plants in circumventing light limitation during the summer period of low water clarity. During summer, this SAV bed strongly attenuated wave energy, which contributed to growth-promoting feedback effects that improved light and nutrient availability for plants. Modification of hydrodynamic conditions also resulted in several negative feedback effects on SAV growth. Feedbacks were regulated by plant stand size and density and seasonal changes in plant canopy architecture. The findings of this study illustrate the significant impacts SAV beds can have on their local environment, improving conditions and resulting in plant growth that could not otherwise occur in this degraded system.