- Seagrasses provide an important ecosystem service by creating a stable erosion‐resistant seabed that contributes to effective coastal protection. Variable morphologies and life‐history strategies, however, are likely to impact the sediment stabilization capacity of different seagrass species. We question how opportunistic invasive species and increasing grazing by megaherbivores may alter sediment stabilization services provided by established seagrass meadows, using the Caribbean as a case study.
- Utilizing two portable field‐flumes that simulate unidirectional and oscillatory flow regimes, we compared the sediment stabilization capacity of natural seagrass meadows in situ under current‐ and wave‐dominated regimes. Monospecific patches of a native (Thalassia testudinum ) and an invasive (Halophila stipulacea ) seagrass species were compared, along with the effect of three levels of megaherbivore grazing on T. testudinum : ungrazed, lightly grazed and intensively grazed.
- For both hydrodynamic regimes, the long‐leaved, dense meadows of the climax species, T. testudinum provided the highest stabilization. However, the loss of above‐ground biomass by intensive grazing reduced the capacity of the native seagrass to stabilize the surface sediment. Caribbean seagrass meadows are presently threatened by the rapid spread of the invasive opportunistic seagrass, H. stipulacea . The dense meadows of H. stipulacea were found to accumulate fine sediment, and thereby, appear to be effective in reducing bottom shear stress during calm periods. This fine sediment within the invasive meadows, however, is easily resuspended by hydrodynamic forces, and the low below‐ground biomass of H. stipulacea make it susceptible to uprooting during storm events, potentially leaving large regions vulnerable to erosion. Overall, this present study highlights that intensive megaherbivore grazing and opportunistic invasive species threaten the coastal protection services provided by mildly grazed native species.
- Synthesis . Seagrass meadows of dense, long‐leaved species stabilize the sediment surface and maintain the seabed integrity, thereby contributing to coastal protection. These services are threatened by intensive megaherbivore grazing, which reduces the stability of the surface sediment, and opportunistic invasive species, which are susceptible to uprooting in storms and thereby can leave the seabed vulnerable to erosion.
Katwijk, M.M. van
Seagrass beds are highly productive coastal ecosystems providing a large array of ecosystem services including !sheries and carbon sequestration. As seagrasses are known to be highly sensitive to anthropogenic forcing, we evaluated the use of trace metal concentrations in seagrasses as bioindicators for trace metal pollution of coastal regions at both global and local scale. We carried out a meta-analysis based on literature data to provide a global benchmark list for trace metal accumulation in seagrasses, which was lacking in literature. We subsequently carried out a case study at the Caribbean islands of Curaçao and Bonaire to test for local-scale differences in trace metal concentrations in seagrasses, and
internal metal allocation. The benchmark and local study show that trace metal concentrations in seagrass leaves, regardless of the species, can vary over a 100e1000-fold range, and are related to the level of anthropogenic pressure, making seagrasses highly valuable indicators.
Seagrasses comprise 78 species and are rarely invasive. But the seagrass Halophila stipulacea, firstly recorded in the Caribbean in the year 2002, has spread quickly throughout the region. Previous works have described this species as invasive in the Caribbean, forming dense mats that exclude native seagrass species. During a reconnaissance field survey of Caribbean seagrass meadows at the islands of Bonaire and Sint Maarten in 2013, we observed that this species was only extremely dense at 5 out of 10 studied meadows. Compared to areas with sparse growth of H. stipulacea, these dense meadows showed consistently higher nutrient concentrations, as indicated by higher leaf tissue N contents of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum (dense when C:N < 22.5) and sediments (dense when %N > 11.3). Thus, the potential invasiveness of this non-native seagrass most likely depends on the environmental conditions, especially the nutrient concentrations.
Seagrass beds are globally declining due to human activities in coastal areas. We here aimed to identify threats from eutrophication to the valuable seagrass beds of Curaçao and Bonaire in the Caribbean, which function as nursery habitats for commercial fish species. We documented surface- and porewater nutrient concentrations, and seagrass nutrient concentrations in 6 bays varying in nutrient loads. Water measurements only provided a momentary snapshot, due to timing, tidal stage, etc., but Thalassia testudinum nutrient concentrations indicated long-term nutrient loads. Nutrient levels in most bays did not raise any concern, but high leaf % P values of Thalassia in Piscadera Bay (0.31%) and Spanish Water Bay (0.21%) showed that seagrasses may be threatened by eutrophication, due to emergency overflow of waste water and coastal housing. We thus showed that seagrasses may be threatened and measures should be taken to prevent loss of these important nursery areas due to eutrophication.