Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seagrass is in decline worldwide

29.03.2006


Around the world, seagrass beds – shallow-water ecosystems that are important habitats, food sources, and sediment stabilizers – are in decline, says Frederick Short, research professor of natural resources and marine science at the University of New Hampshire. And as these underwater meadows disappear, so do commercially valuable shellfish and fish, waterfowl and other wildlife, water quality, and erosion prevention.


On the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Fred Short, UNH research professor of natural resources and marine science, retrieves marked plants for an assessment of seagrass productivity.


UNH professor Fred Short (right) training SeagrassNet team member Adrian Vernon in the seagrass bed near Placencia Village, Belize.



Short, who founded the global monitoring program SeagrassNet in 2001, has been studying eelgrass, a type of seagrass found in the Northern Atlantic, for more than 20 years. While he still conducts research at UNH’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory on the Great Bay Estuary in Durham, he also collaborates with teams of researchers to monitor seagrass health at 45 sites in 17 countries worldwide.

From the Hudson Bay, where the Cree Nation enlisted him to transplant their diminishing eelgrass beds, to the Pacific Island of Palau, Short’s research has produced distressingly similar findings.


“Almost everywhere we start monitoring seagrass, it’s declining,” he says. And while conclusive global results are not yet available, Short is fairly certain the causes are consistent around the world: human impact.

At a state park in Malaysia, for instance, SeagrassNet has charted a decline since 2001 at both a “pristine” site and a less protected site. Satellite imaging showed researchers that the impact was not due to a global force like climate change, but rather to on-shore logging that had increased the level of water-borne sediments at both sites, decreasing light reaching the bottom, where seagrasses grow.

In remote areas of the Hudson and James Bays in sub-Arctic Canada, where members of the Cree Nation noticed their seagrass beds diminishing, Short noted that the beds were in the plume of fresh water released from a nearby Hydro-Quebec plant. The fresh water influx decreased the salinity so much that the seagrass could no longer survive.

Short and his SeagrassNet colleagues have not ruled out global climate change as a factor in the decline of seagrass beds. Yet so far, he’s found the impacts on seagrass to be far more localized. “Human pollution of the water has been the biggest issue,” he says.

Short likens seagrass beds to a forest on the ocean floor. Among the most productive plant communities on the planet, seagrass beds serve as protective nurseries for juvenile fish and shellfish, a habitat for many marine species, and a feeding ground for predatory fish, waterfowl and large sea creatures like manatees and sea turtles. The root and rhizome system of these flowering plants stabilizes sediments, protecting the coastline from currents and weather-related erosion. Seagrass is an effective filter of nutrients and particulates, and it is the basis of a detrital food chain that feeds fish and shellfish.

When seagrass beds disappear, Short says, the impact is major. A disease outbreak in the 1930s wiped out 90 percent of eelgrass in the North Atlantic. The scallop fishery in the mid-Atlantic disappeared, says Short, and “it’s never really come back.” In Thailand, where SeagrassNet researchers have begun investigating the impact of the 2004 tsunami on seagrass, the beds provide local fishers with significant shellfish. “If the seagrass beds disappear, so do the people’s protein sources,” says Short.

His work in Thailand highlights the reason for the worldwide monitoring program: Prior to SeagrassNet, little was known about seagrass in many locations around the world. With no baseline, assessing the impact of a disturbance like the tsunami is nearly impossible.

Short is looking forward, adding new sites to SeagrassNet around the world and, in New England, researching effective ways of restoring eelgrass to areas where water quality has improved. A site selection model he’s developed helps him and other researchers determine areas that are optimal for restoring diminished eelgrass beds with sod-like patches.

As SeagrassNet researchers continue to input their data into a Web-accessible database, Short is now working on data analysis from the first five years of SeagrassNet monitoring. Meanwhile, he says, he will continue to add new sites to the global monitoring network. “It’s growing just as fast as I can grow it,” he says.

Beth Potier | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.seagrassnet.org
http://www.unh.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>