Reconstruction of Ecological Environments within Rice Bay and Graham's Harbour

This discussion topic submitted by Rick Zimmerman (zimm@nsystems.wcp.miamioh.edu) on 3/30/99.

Project Goals and Outcomes: consist of identifying environmental and ecological change within two lagoon environments, Graham's Harbour and Rice Bay, both located off of San Salvador Island in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Currently, researchers are struggling withte development of tools to better recognize global change in marine envoronments. But, before change can be recognized, there must be a baseline fore comparison. It is that baseline which I hope to create.
In marine environments, the death assemblage-the hard bodied remains of once living organisms that is preserved int he sediments-offers a rich source of hte past history of that community. as individuals die, their remains become incorporated into the sediments layer by layer year after year. I entend to use the macroinvertebrate (mollusks, crusaceans, etc.) death assemblage to reconstruct an ecological baseline of these tropical lagoons over the last 6,000 years. This ecological baseline, an historical record, will be compared with the modern day community in these lagoons.
My study will take place in two parts. I have already begun analyzing the past community record using one 4 meter core taken from Rice Bay. Then, this summer ('99) in the Bahamas, in addition to taking one more deep 4 meter core, I will concentrate on intensive sampling of hte lagoon communities in a variety of habitats in Rice Bay and Graham's Harbour. I am particularly interested in the distribution and abundance of seagrass in these tropical lagoons and the effects seagrass patchiness has on organismal abundance in modern communities.
It is knownthat the ability to determine the age of organisms (plants and animals) ahd proven most useful in elucidating their ecology and population dynamics (Duarte et al., 1994). Thus, using techniques based on age determinations of seagrass I will reconstruct seagrass cynamica within both lagoons. This reconstruction of seagrass environments will serve to improve our knowledge of hte role seagrasses play in the coastal zones of the Bahamas and it will provide a baseline for future environmental monitoring of both lagoons. This information will also be related to information collected from both 4-meter cores to aid in reconstruction of hte past environments.
Research has also concluded that he presence of some mollusks within seagrass habitats positively influences the abundance of most macroinvertebrate groups (Valentine & Heck, 1993). Examination of macroinvertebrate species within the seagrass beds will be recorded and the presence of particular mollusk species will be observed. These observation s will then be compared to determine if some mollusk species combined with seagrass do positively influence species abundance in both lagoons.
Expected outcomes: include recognizing and reconstructing the lagoon environments over the last 6,000 years and compare these changes with the present, modern day record of macroinvertebrate abundance, diversity and correlation with seagrass abundance and patchiness.

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