Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Science & Environmental Policy


diverse habitat is created in the seagrasses of the Chincoteague and Chesapeake Bays. This habitat is in decline however. Periphyton is blamed for this loss of habitat. Periphyton can block sunlight from reaching the seagrass. In combination with light attenuation in the water, periphyton can cause seagrasses to be light stressed. Wave exposure can directly affect periphyton by increasing drag, removing it. Also important are possible indirect affects that can come from a change in sediment characteristics. These changes in the sediment may drive nutrient changes in the water column. With changes in nutrients, epiphyte growth could be changed. It is hypothesized that through this indirect path, beginning with wave exposure, periphyton loading is affected. A model of interactions was tested in the field for the Chincoteague and Chesapeake Bays by characterizing each bay in terms of wave exposure, sediments, nutrients and biological data relating to the periphyton and seagrasses. For both the Chesapeake and Chincoteague Bays, wave exposure did not affect periphyton indirectly through affecting the sediments and nutrients. Correlations between variables of wave exposure (sum of eight fetches), sediments (%fines, %organic matter), nutrients (NO₂⁻ + NO₃⁻, NH₄⁺, PO₄³⁻), and biological data (leaf area, shoot density, organic periphyton, inorganic periphyton and total periphyton) did not show the indirect pathway linking wave exposure to periphyton. While nutrients did not correlate with periphyton load, nutrients could still have an impact on periphyton at high concentrations. Wave exposure should still be studied more in-depth to identify other variables that could lead to affects on periphyton.


Capstone Project (B.S.) Earth Systems Science & Policy Institute

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