Extraordinary mound building Avrainvillea (Chlorophyta): The largest tropical marine plants

  • Littler M
  • Littler D
  • Brooks B
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Abstract

We have discovered incredible mound-building colonial Avrainvillea, dominating the standing stocks and productivity of submerged habitats within Belizean mangrove island interior creeks, ponds, and lakes (Fig. 1). These colossal mound formers are restricted to shallow (20-m diameter) mound-like colonies (Fig. 3). One of the smallest of these colonies, measuring 0.6·1.1 m diam., weighed 19 kg (spun wet weight). Our transects show Avrainvillea colonies exceeding 20 m in diameter, indicating that their individual biomass can be enormous. Mangrove interior ponds, lakes, and creeks support such colonial growth forms of Avrainvillea by providing benign refuge habitats protected from physical disturbances (i.e., intense wave action and herbivory) that characterize the nearby coral reef systems (e.g., Littler and Littler 1999) and surrounding mangrove island outside perimeters (Taylor et al. 1986). Most importantly, these eutrophic interior habitats also ameliorate the water-column nutrient limitations (Lapointe et al. 1987) that frequently control biomass in other reef ecosystems.

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Authors

  • M. M. Littler

  • D. S. Littler

  • B. L. Brooks

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