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Fluid dynamics in seagrass ecology - from molecules to ecosystems

Koch, E.W., Ackerman, J.D., Verduin, J. and van Keulen, M. (2006) Fluid dynamics in seagrass ecology - from molecules to ecosystems. In: Larkum, A.W.D., Orth, R.J. and Duarte, C.M., (eds.) Seagrasses : biology, ecology and conservation. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 193-226.

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Fluid dynamics is the study of the movement of fluids. Among other things, it addresses velocity, acceleration, and the forces exerted by or upon fluids in motion (Daugherty et al.. 1985; White. 1999: Kundu and Cohen, 2002). Fluid dynamics affects every aspect of the existence of seagrasses from the smallest to the largest scale: from the nutrients they obtain to the sediment they colonize; from the pollination of their flowers to the import/export of organic matter to adjacent systems; from the light that reaches their leaves to the organisms that live in the seagrass habitats. Therefore, fluid dynamics is of major importance in seagrass biology, ecology, and ecophysiology. Unfortunately, fluid dynamics is often overlooked in seagrass systems (Koch, 2001). This chapter provides a general background in fluid dynamics and then addresses increasingly larger scales of fluid dynamic processes relevant to seagrass ecology and physiology: molecules (μm), leaves and shoots (mm to cm), seagrass canopies (m), sea- grass landscapes (100—1.000 m), and seagrasses as part of the biosphere (>1.000 m). Although gases are also fluids, this chapter is restricted to water (i.e. compressed fluids), how it flows through seagrasses, the forces it exerts on the plants, and the implications that this has for seagrass systems. Seagrasses are not only affected by water in motion, they also affect the currents, waves and turbulence of the water masses surrounding them. This capacity to alter their own environment is referred to as “ecosystem engineering” (Jones et al.. 1994, 1997; Thomas et al., 2000). Readers are also encouraged to consult a recent review by Okubo et al. (2002) for a discussion on flow in terrestrial and aquatic vegetation including freshwater plants, seagrasses, and kelp.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Springer
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