The development of submerged plant communities dominated byRuppia drepanensis Tineo in the brackish marsh of the Doñana National Park (SW Spain) was coupled to seasonal variation in environmental factors for two consecutive years. Plant biomass increased rapidly in early spring (March), with steady biomass yields (up to 100 g afdw m–2) together with abundant flowering and fruiting in late spring (April–May). Wind-induced sediment resuspension and periphyton growth strongly influenced the light climate experienced by the submerged vegetation, while a phytoplankton effect was generally negligible. Development of the submerged vegetation coincided with a decrease in water extinction coefficient and in bicarbonate concentration. Thus, where dense macrophyte meadows develop, light climate probably is the limiting factor in the early spring, while temperature and bicarbonate levels are so by the end of the season. Interannual variation was found to be very high, both in abundance and distribution of the submerged vegetation, mainly because of differences in rainfall which influenced the inundation cycle. Grazing by waterfowl accounted also for this effect, as in dry years birds concentrate in the few wetlands still containing water.