Reef researchers studying community shifts in the balance between corals and fleshy macroalgae have noted that algae are often covered with sediment. This study characterizes sediment trapping by macroalgae within a Hawaiian reef habitat and constrains the controls on this process. Sediment-laden macroalgae were sampled and macroalgal cover was assessed on a wide (???1 km) reef flat off south-central Molokai. Macroalgae trapped a mean of 1.26 (??0.91 SD) grams of sediment per gram of dry weight biomass and that sediment was dominantly terrigenous mud (59% by weight). It was determined that biomass, as a proxy for algal size, and morphology were not strict controls on the sediment trapping process. Over 300 metric tons of sediment were estimated to be retained by macroalgae across 5.75 km2 of reef flat (54 g m-2), suggesting that this process is an important component of sediment budgets. In addition, understanding the character of sediment trapped by macroalgae may help constrain suspended sediment flux and has implications for nutrient dynamics in reef flat environments. ?? 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Characterization of sediment trapped by macroalgae on a Hawaiian reef flat