Most harmful algal blooms are relatively short, violent paroxysms to aquatic systems. The Texas brown tide was unique in its 7-year domination of upper Laguna Madre wherein it reduced light penetrating 1 m from 31 to 63% on an annual basis between June 1990 and May 1997. In response, seagrasses declined in biomass in deep areas for two years. Over the next three years, bare areas opened up in the deepest areas of the seagrass meadow and the outer seagrass boundary retreated landward. In the last two years of the brown tide, regression of the dominant species, Halodule wrightii, slowed and stopped, and Halophila engelmanni, a previously minor species, revegetated some areas. Subsequent to cessation of meadow retreat, water clarity improved to pre-brown tide levels, consistent with the hypothesis that regeneration of nutrients from retreating seagrass meadow may have been the source of the nutrient subsidy required to sustain the brown tide at high concentration. However, after a short interlude of clear water and Halodule recovery, a resurgence of the bloom occurred and areas of regrowth succumbed. Although human activities did not seem to be involved in initiation or persistence of the brown tide, nutrients brought in by runoff from agricultural lands may have contributed to the return of bloom conditions.
Additional publication details
Seagrass responses to and recovery (?) from seven years of brown tide