Spatial Distribution and Species Composition of Seagrasses in Mannar Lagoon

R.R.M.K.P Ranatunga, P.D.R.S. Pethiyagoda

Abstract


Gulf of Mannar region has identified as “High Regional Priority Areas” by IUCN due to its
high ecosystem and species diversity. Seagrass meadows play a significant role as primary
producers sustaining a diversity of invertebrates, fish and other vertebrates such as dugong
and sea turtles that inhabit or visit the area. Seagrasses also provide refuge for larval stages of
many inhabitants as well as breeding colonies of several water birds.
Sampling was carried out in two field visits each lasting three days, between December 2013
and January 2014. Extensive survey was carried out in all the inundated habitats within the
lagoon. Area lying within 500 m either side of the proposed over head transmission line
(OHTL) within Vankalai Sanctuary were investigated. In the areas where the species
diversity was very high, sampling was conducted in 100 m intervals whereas in other areas in
200 m intervals. Underwater visual surveys were carried out using diving and snorkeling.
Underwater video and photo transects were acquired along a 50 m transect to obtain a
permanent visual record of the biota and substrate. In addition, belt transect method was used
to estimate the percent cover. Quadrates with an area of 1m2 divided into 100 uniform grids
was used along a 50 m transect with a minimum of three quadrate samples.
Seagrasses growing either homogenously or heterogeneously in mixed populations forming
thick and dense meadows on muddy, sandy, clay soil of the lagoon and coastal areas in the
shallow areas of the lagoon was a significant observation in this study. The Mannar lagoon is
a favourable habitat for seagrasses due to shallowness and limited water movement.
Seagrass community recorded during the survey were; Tape Seagrass (Wattala) Enhalus
acaroides, sickle seagrass Thalassia hemprichii, narrow leaf seagrass Halodule uninervis,
noodle seagrass Syringodium isoetifolium, Cymodocea rotundata, Cymodocea serrulata,
Oval-leaf Seagrass, Halophila ovalis, and Halophila decipiens.
Anthropogenic activities (i.e., harmful and unsustainable fishing methods such as drag nets)
have led to the degradation of seagrass meadows with an indirect adverse effect on fish catch
in the area. Seagrass beds are also affected by unplanned establishment of fish landing sites,
and fishing boats.
Keywords: Mannar lagoon, Seagrass, Species composition, Spatial distribution


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Proceedings of International Forestry and Environment Symposium, Sri Lanka. Published by Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura