A study on posidonia oceanica (l.) delile, 1813 seagrass meadows in the levant sea
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In this thesis, the distribution and state of Posidonia oceanica meadows along the Turkish coast of the north eastern Mediterranean was investigated. The study area was a unique site due to the presence of eastern geographical limit of Posidonia oceanica meadows in Mediterranean Sea. It was aimed to assess the possible reasons of the absence and/or regression in relation to environmental changes. The study was conducted from September 2004 to January 2007 in 5 main regions between Anamur/Mersin and Samandag/Hatay. The regions were determined according to the presence/absence of Posidonia oceanica meadows; 1 region including the boundary meadow at the geographical distribution limit, 1 region western and 3 regions eastern to that boundary meadow. To describe the hydrological characteristics of the study area temperature, salinity and light were measured as abiotic descriptors. Additionally sedimentological analysis was carried out to check the suitability of the substrate type for Posidonia oceanica colonization. The main differences between the regions were found in temperature and light conditions. Both, the recordings of temperature loggers at 10 and 15 meter depths and the sea surface temperature retrieved from satellite (NOAA-AVHRR) showed that the eastern stations with no Posidonia oceanica meadows were warmer than the western stations. Consequently in this study the maximum tolerable temperature limit for Posidonia oceanica growth was determined as 28.4°C from the data collected by the temperature loggers placed to natural meadows near to the boundary meadow. Generally, the whole study area had a limiting light condition for seagrass growth due to low penetration depths of the 10% of surface irradiation. This was a generalized minimum light requirement for growth of seagrasses. Especially in Mersin and Iskenderun bays the minimum required light level did not reached deeper than 10 meter depths in coastal stations. The biological parameters of the Posidonia oceanica meadows were investigated under 3 complementary methods in the first two regions. The structural descriptors were measured in-situ. The lowest shoot density and leaf lengths were found to be in boundary meadow. This meadow had also the lowest depth limit among other stations. The functional descriptors were examined by the lepidochronological and phenological analysis in laboratory. Most of the measurements varied either with respect to depth or among stations according to the abiotic factors of the stations. The lepidochronological cycles obtained from sheath thicknesses were further correlated with abiotic descriptors via a mathematical model. Finally, the first transplantation experiment of Posidonia oceanica along Turkish coasts has been conducted in 2 regions where presently no meadows exist. The survival of cuttings in one station indicated the success of the methodology, while the failure in other stations provided information on the possible reasons of absence/degradation of natural meadows in the area. These included the destructive impact of bottom trawling, the high pressure of grazing (the potential causes of Lessepsian migration) and the long term changes in climate resulting in alterations of environmental conditions such as increasing temperature and reduced light penetration.