Spectral reflectance of Thalassia testudinum (Hydrocharitaceae) seagrass: Low salinity effects

Anitra Thorhaug, Andrew D. Richardson, Graeme P. Berlyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Massive anthropogenic changes in estuarine salinities, from manipulations of freshwater flows, are again occurring through governmental projects "correcting" past freshwater alterations. The downstream effects of increased freshwater on seagrass meadows, a major fisheries and ecosystem habitat, are not clear. Spectral responses to low salinities were quantitatively delimited for the important habitat seagrass Thalassia testudinum utilizing spectral reflectance measurements for the first time (non-invasive sampling). Over a range of salinities (32-16 parts per thousand sea salts [ppt] for 24 h) and spectra (308-1138 nm), Thalassia specimens showed statistically significant differences in spectral values (P < 0.05) between treatments at normal (32 ppt) and 50% reduced (16 ppt) seawater. Mature blades yellowed at low salinities. Reflectance changes at 525 nm and 650-680 nm at low salinities suggested changes in xanthophylls and chlorophylls. Four indices were also used to characterize the reflectance spectra to delineate the effect of the salinity changes: (1) The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) for mature blades reduced at 16 ppt from that at 32 ppt. (2) The chlorophyll normalized difference index (Chl NDI) suggested chlorophyll content decreases in response to reduced salinity. (3) The structure independent pigment index (SIPI), higher in mature blades at 16 ppt than new blades, indicates a higher carotenoid:chlorophyll ratio in mature blades. (4) The photochemical reflectance index (PRI) suggested a lower photochemical efficiency at lower salinities. The main low-salinity effect on Thalassia physiology delineated herein is likely through changes in pigmentation (decreases in chlorophyll and changes in xanthophyll cycle epoxidation).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-117
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Chlorophyll
  • Chlorophyll normalized difference index
  • Photochemical reflectance index
  • Salinity
  • Seagrasses
  • Spectral reflectance
  • Thalassia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Spectral reflectance of Thalassia testudinum (Hydrocharitaceae) seagrass: Low salinity effects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this