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First description of seagrass distribution and abundance in São Tomé and Príncipe

Alexandre, Ana, Silva, João, Ferreira, Rogério, Paulo, Diogo, Serrão, Ester A., Santos, Rui
Aquatic botany 2017 v.142 pp. 48-52
biomass, carbon, carbon dioxide fixation, coasts, environmental factors, leaves, meadows, nutrient content, plant morphology, seagrasses, tissues, Atlantic Ocean, Sao Tome and Principe
Seagrass meadows in São Tomé and Príncipe, eastern Atlantic Ocean, are described here for the first time. Specifically, we quantified the biomass and density of seagrasses, characterized the plant morphology and measure their nutrient content as a proxy of the nutrient environmental conditions where the meadows develop. The seagrass Halodule wrightii was found in two locations of the northeastern coast of the island of São Tomé: 1) developing throughout an estimated area of 1500ha surrounding Cabras islet, at a depth range of 4–10m, on sandy bottom; and 2) at Santana bay with an area of 1500m2 at 5–10m depth, on sandy bottom. A highly morphologically different population of Halodule wrightii was found on the northeastern coast of the island of Príncipe, off Abade beach, covering an area of 135m2 at 4m depth. Further research is needed to assess if this is a different species. Shoot biomass and density was 10 and 4-fold higher in São Tomé than in Príncipe, respectively. CN ratios of above and belowground tissues of plants collected in São Tomé were also significantly higher than in Príncipe. The carbon content of Halodule leaves from São Tomé and Príncipe (41%) was much higher than that reported for other Halodule species, suggesting that meadows may have an important ecological role for carbon fixation. The presence of H. wrightii in São Tomé and Principe raises ecological and evolutionary questions that warrant further research.