Seagrass Communities of the Gulf Coast of Florida: Status and Ecology
This article is excerpted from the foreword of Seagrass Communities of the Gulf Coast of Florida. "The waters along Florida's Gulf of Mexico coastline, which stretches from the tropical Florida Keys in the south to the temperate Panhandle in the north, contain the most extensive and diverse seagrass meadows in the United States. Seagrass meadows rival or exceed most kinds of agriculture in their productivity and also provide unique aesthetic and recreational opportunities. The importance of seagrasses as food, shelter, and essential nursery habitats for commercial- and recreational-fishery species and for the many other organisms that live and feed in seagrass beds is well known. A single acre of seagrass can produce over 10 tons of leaves per year and can support as many as 40 thousand fish and 50 million invertebrates. This high level of production and biodiversity has led to the view that seagrass communities are the marine equivalent of tropical rainforests. The importance of seagrasses to society has become fully recognized by government agencies. Seagrasses are now receiving focused attention from environmental managers, who require integrated science to aid in developing seagrass-protection programs. Studies concerning the ecology, biology, and management of Gulf-coast seagrasses are increasingly diverse and complex; yet a synthesis of this research has not been prepared since the late 1980s. The need for an up-to-date synthesis has resulted in the production of this document, which compiles and organizes the many diverse research efforts that have been accomplished for this region since that time."