Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean & Earth Sciences


Ocean and Earth Sciences

Committee Director

Richard C. Zimmerman

Committee Member

Larry P. Atkinson

Committee Member

David J. Burdige

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.O35 S86 2009


Seagrasses are significant ecological and biogeochemical agents in shallow water ecosystems throughout the world. In many regions, seagrass meadows occupy a sufficient fraction of the coastal zone, and generate optical signatures that can be observed from space. Bio-optical models of light absorption and scattering by submerged plant canopies for certain species such as Thalassia testudinum and Zostera marina have successfully modeled the plane irradiance distribution and photosynthesis within the submerged canopies. Syringodium filiforme differs &om T. testudinttm and Z marina, in leaf morphology and canopy architecture. The objective of this study was to develop a radiative transfer model that accurately predicts the light absorbed and reflected by the canopy of this morphologically unique, and abundant tropical seagrass. The approach involved modifying Zimmerman's (2003) flat leaf bio-optical model by incorporating the unique vertical biomass distribution of S. filiforme. Leaf length frequency data along with the assumption of a spherical canopy allowed the parameterization of the unique architecture of the seagrass canopy. Model predictions of downwelling irradiance and attenuation coefficients within the Syringodium filiforme canopies were consistent with field measurements, therefore providing a robust tool for predicting photosynthetic performance of these seagrass canopies. Model predictions of top of the canopy upwelling irradiances, as well as top of the canopy reflectances were also consistent with field measurements. This predictive understanding will help to develop global algorithms for remote sensing of the abundance and productivity of this species that will lead to better coastal management practices.


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