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Monitoring of a protected multi-specific tropical seagrass meadow reveals a pattern of decline and recovery
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3973-1703
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In a changing environment, there is an increasing interest to monitor ecosystems to understand their responses to environmental change. Seagrass meadows are highly important ecosystems, but at the same time they are under a constant threat from human activities, as well as climate impacts, and marked declines have been observed worldwide. Despite increasing efforts, monitoring of multi-specific tropical seagrass meadows is scarce, particularly in developing regions. Here we analysed data from the first 10 years of a monitoring programme in a marine protected area in Zanzibar (Tanzania) to assess temporal changes in seagrass cover and species composition and to detect potential drivers of change. The seagrass meadow experienced a strong gradual decline in seagrass cover and changes in species composition, followed by a period of recovery. However, the timing and length of these temporal patterns varied in space (between transects). Of the climate variables considered, cloud cover, temperature, storm occurrence, sunspot activity and the height of the diurnal low tide seemed to influence seagrass cover, although only to a small extent, suggesting that the monitored seagrass meadow may be influenced by other unmeasured factors. Considering our results, seagrass meadows seem to be highly dynamic at small spatial scales even in the absence of major local anthropogenic impacts. Further monitoring programmes should be developed in the region to gain a better understanding of seagrass temporal variability and causes of change.

National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Marine Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-154964OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-154964DiVA, id: diva2:1196072
Available from: 2018-04-09 Created: 2018-04-09 Last updated: 2018-04-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Effects of Marine Protected Areas on Tropical Seagrass Ecosystems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects of Marine Protected Areas on Tropical Seagrass Ecosystems
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Seagrass beds are highly productive coastal ecosystems that sustain a rich and diverse associated fauna and flora. Increasing anthropogenic pressures threaten seagrass ecosystems and have already led to major seagrass losses across the world. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have become one of the key strategies to manage coastal ecosystems and associated resources worldwide and have been often shown to successfully protect marine ecosystems. However, relatively few studies have assessed the effects of MPAs on seagrass ecosystems, and there are indications that MPAs may not be able to fully protect seagrasses, especially from disturbances originating outside their boundaries. Within this context, this thesis aimed to investigate the direct and indirect effects (those mediated by biotic interactions) of MPAs on tropical seagrasses, associated fish communities, and ecosystem processes.

The thesis consists of three parts. First, we used 10-years of seagrass monitoring data within a MPA to evaluate the temporal variability in seagrass cover and species composition in relation to changes in environmental conditions (Paper I). Second, we investigated the potential of MPAs to enhance the temporal stability of seagrass ecosystems using a 10-month field study. We surveyed seagrass-associated fish communities (Paper II) and estimated seagrass growth and herbivory rates (Paper III) during three different seasons within MPAs and unprotected sites. Finally, to evaluate the effects of MPAs and land-use on seagrass ecosystems we surveyed seagrass species and trait composition within government-managed MPAs, community-managed MPAs, and unprotected sites (Paper IV).

The seagrass bed monitored in Paper I showed a high temporal and spatial variability, with a temporal decline in cover and change in species composition, followed by a period of recovery. This pattern could not be associated with any of the climate and tidal variables considered, suggesting that potential drivers of decline may have originated outside MPA boundaries. The results from the seasonal field study showed that MPAs increased the temporal stability of seagrass-associated fish communities, particularly juvenile fish (Paper II), and strengthened a positive link between herbivorous fish, herbivory rates, and seagrass growth (Paper III), suggesting the presence of a positive feedback that promotes stability. Finally, MPAs affected seagrass species and trait composition (by selecting for more stress-sensitive species) but did not seem to be able to protect seagrasses from land-use effects, with seagrasses showing similar changes in species and trait composition within and outside MPAs (Paper IV). Considering these results, this thesis builds to a body of literature indicating that MPAs alone may not be sufficient to protect seagrass ecosystems and that improved management strategies may be necessary to preserve these important coastal habitats.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, 2018. p. 54
Keywords
coastal ecosystems, seagrass, marine protected areas, management, conservation, fish, herbivory, Western Indian Ocean, East Africa, tropical
National Category
Biological Sciences Ecology
Research subject
Marine Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-154966 (URN)978-91-7797-268-6 (ISBN)978-91-7797-269-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-06-05, Vivi Täckholmssalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, Stockholm, 09:30 (English)
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Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-05-09 Created: 2018-04-09 Last updated: 2018-05-04Bibliographically approved

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