Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: Plant Research
Calwyn Morton - University of the Virgin Islands
Co-Author(s): Avram Primack and Sandy Wyllie-Echeverria
Halophila stipulacea is an invasive seagrass species originally native to the Indian Ocean. It invaded the Mediterranean Sea shortly after the opening of the Suez Canal, and has recently been found in the Caribbean. It has been suggested that it arrived in the Mediterranean attached to small pleasure craft, fishing craft, or small cargo vessels. This research examines the feasibility of these methods of transport and the possibility that arrived transported in by ocean currents. To investigate potential transport vectors, we collected rooted samples of H. stipulacea were collected from Brewers Bay on the island of Saint Thomas, USVI and exposed them to the conditions that would be experienced under each alternative method of transport. The health of the samples was monitored using a FLOURPEN FP 100 portable fluorometer. Rhizomes, and associated containing several leaf pairs declined rapidly when exposed to air, submersed in freshwater, or and kept damp in a towel soaked in seawater, but survived for more than 5 weeks when left floating in a bucket submersed in a seawater tank. Water temperature ranged between 27˚C and 30˚C during the experiment. This suggests that it might be possible for H. stipulacea to cross the Atlantic aided by currents.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This research was funded by the NSF HBCU-UP Grant #1137472, ECS Honors Fund, and Title III.
Faculty Advisor: Avram Primack,