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Seagrass is grass-like flowering plant which is found in the marine and estuarine waters. These seagrasses occur throughout the coastal areas of Florida and the Florida Bay. These plants are also found in lagoons and protected bays, as well as in deeper waters along the Gulf of Mexico. Water clarity greatly affects the depth at which these sea grasses occur because most of these species require high levels of light and so water clarity is one of the main factors for their existence. The three groups of flowering plants which exist in the ocean since the time of dinosaurs are known as "sea grasses". These are found to be the only flowering plants that can survive underwater. These plants grow in sediment on the sea floor with elongated and erect leaves with a buried root-like structure. These species provide habitat and diet to many sea animals. The dugongs and green turtles mostly feed on these plants as well as it provides habitat to the small marine fishes such as fish and prawns. They play an important role in keeping the water clean by absorbing the nutrients and stabilizing the sediments. These grasses have a unique characteristic of living entirely immersed in water but some of them are exceptions like enhalus plants. These enhalus plants emerge to the surface to reproduce.
Breeding / Reproduction
These plants can reproduce sexually as well as asexually. They do this through the process called drifting and detached rhizome fragments, but these processes seem to be rare in these species. There is a covering of about 80,000 acres of these plants along the Indian River Lagoon.
Apart from the human related threats there are a number of natural threats that threaten or damage these species. In the 1930s a disease caused by marine slime mold damaged the eel grass beds in temperate coastal areas. Storms and wind-driven waves can damage the seagrass meadows. These wind-driven waves can even uproot or break these plants. Moreover, sea animals like sea urchins, manatees, crabs, marine fishes, etc. also damage these plants while searching for buried prey.
Some of the varieties of these species are as follows
- Florida's Seagrass: Out of 52 species of these plants only seven are found in Florida. Tirtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) : These are the largest of their family and have deeper root structures. They are found in Florida and have large ribbon-like leaves.
- Shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) : These grow along the east coast and are often found in shallow water.
- Widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima) : These are the inhabitants of both salt water and fresh water. These species are also widely distributed along the coast of Florida.
- Manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme) : These species have cylindrical leaves and they are common in the Indian River.
Some of the most important facts about these plants are as follows:
- It prevents the ocean floor from erosion.
- It helps to keep the water clean.
- Octopus are often seen digging burrows in the bare patches of these grass meadows.
- It provides food to small fishes and other animals.
- octopuses, Sea cucumbers, crabs, shrimps, etc. can be found near these plants.
Thus, its very interesting to know and read about this sea grasses.