Seagrass depth limits

Carlos M. Duarte*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

685 Scopus citations


Examination of the depth limit of seagrass communities distributed worldwide showed that sea-grasses may extend from mean sea level down to a depth of 90 m, and that differences in seagrass depth limit (Zc) are largely attributable to differences in light attenuation underwater (K). This relationship is best described by the equation log Zc (m) = 0.26 - 1.07 log K (m-) that holds for a large number of marine angiosperm species, although differences in seagrass growth strategy and architecture also appear to contribute to explain differences in their depth limits. The equation relating seagrass depth limit and light attenuation coefficient is qualitatively similar to previous equations developed for freshwater angiosperms, but predicts that seagrasses will colonize greater depths than freshwater angiosperms in clear (transparency greater than 10 m) waters. Further, the reduction in seagrass biomass from the depth of maximum biomass towards the depth limit is also closely related to the light attenuation coefficient. The finding that seagrasses can extend to depths receiving, on average, about 11% of the irradiance at the surface, together with the use of the equation described, may prove useful in the identification of seagrass meadows that have not reached their potential extension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-377
Number of pages15
JournalAquatic Botany
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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