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Natural Communities of Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics
Saltmarsh and sand shoreline
  • Tidal Marsh

    Tidal marshes (or saltmarshes) stabilize and bind sediments, protecting against erosion. They also provide significant nursery, feeding and reproductive habitat for a wide variety of organisms. Most of the saltmarshes in Alligator Harbor are located along the tidal creek at the eastern end of the harbor. The animal life of the saltmarsh is rich and diverse, including several species of invertebrates, fish, birds and even some mammals.
  • Unconsolidated Substrate

    Muddy, softbottom, unvegetated substrate comprises the majority of the open water zone and is the dominant natural community of the harbor. The relative composition of the sand, silt, clay and shell fractions of the sediments depends on the proximity to land, runoff conditions, water currents and biological productivity. This substrate is generally dominated by polychaetes and amphipods.
  • Oyster Reefs

    Oyster reefs are stable islands of substrate in an otherwise muddy environment. Their extensive surface area provides essential habitat for many animals and the crevices provide a refuge for motile invertebrates such as crabs. They also can improve water clarity through filtration. They comprise approximately 291 acres within Alligator Harbor.
  • Algal Beds

    Over 300 species of algae have been found in the general area of Alligator Harbor. Red algae are the most conspicuous, but green algaes are also well represented. Brown and blue-green algae are less conspicuous, but still present. These algal beds are an important food source for grazers.
  • Seagrass Beds

    Seagrass beds are submerged flowering plants which stabilize sediments, entrap silt, recycle nutrients, provide shelter and habitat for animals, serve as nursery grounds and are important direct food sources. They are dependent on light and have a limited range in Alligator Harbor, due to the turbidity. The grassbeds in Alligator Harbor cover approximately 646 acres and are primarily shoal grass, manatee grass and turtle grass.


Last updated: April 12, 2013

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