Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Seagrass ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
Show others and affiliations
2002 (English)In: Ambio, ISSN 0044-7447, Vol. 31, no 7, 588-596 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Seagrasses are marine angiosperms widely distributed in both tropical and temperate coastal waters creating one of the most productive aquatic ecosystems on earth. In the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region, with its 13 reported seagrass species, these ecosystems cover wide areas of near-shore soft bottoms through the 12 000 km coastline. Seagrass beds are found intertidally as well as subtidally, sometimes down to about 40 m, and do often occur in close connection to coral reefs and mangroves. Due to the high primary production and a complex habitat structure, seagrass beds support a variety of benthic, demersal and pelagic organisms. Many fish and shellfish species, including those of commercial interest, are attracted to seagrass habitats for foraging and shelter, especially during their juvenile life stages. Examples of abundant and widespread fish species associated to seagrass beds in the WIO belong to the families Apogonidae, Blenniidae, Centriscidae, Gerreidae, Gobiidae, Labridae, Lethrinidae Lutjanidae, Monacanthidae, Scaridae, Scorpaenidae, Siganidae, Syngnathidae and Teraponidae. Consequently, seagrass ecosystems in the WIO are valuable resources for fisheries at both local and regional scales. Still, seagrass research in the WIO is scarce compared to other regions and it is mainly focusing on botanic diversity and ecology. This article reviews the research status of seagrass beds in the WIO with particular emphasis on fish and fisheries. Most research on this topic has been conducted along the East African coast, i.e. in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and eastern South Africa, while less research was carried out in Somalia and the Island States of the WIO (Seychelles, Comoros, Reunion (France), Mauritius and Madagascar). Published papers on seagrass fish ecology in the region are few and mainly descriptive. Hence, there is a need of more scientific knowledge in the form of describing patterns and processes through both field and experimental work. Quantitative seagrass fish community studies in the WIO such as the case study presented in this paper are negligible, but necessitated for the perspective of fisheries management. It is also highlighted that the pressure on seagrass beds in the region is increasing due to growing coastal populations and human disturbance from e.g. pollution, eutrophication, sedimentation, fishing activities and collection of invertebrates, and its effect are little understood. Thus, there is a demand for more research that will generate information useful for sustainable management of seagrass ecosystems in the WIO.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2002. Vol. 31, no 7, 588-596 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22734OAI: diva2:189339
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1061Available from: 2006-05-18 Created: 2006-05-18 Last updated: 2010-04-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Humans and Seagrasses in East Africa: A social-ecological systems approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Humans and Seagrasses in East Africa: A social-ecological systems approach
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present study is one of the first attempts to analyze the societal importance of seagrasses (marine flowering plants) from a Natural Resource Management perspective, using a social-ecological systems (SES) approach. The interdisciplinary study takes place in East Africa (Western Indian Ocean, WIO) and includes in-depth studies in Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Natural and social sciences methods were used. The results are presented in six articles, showing that seagrass ecosystems are rich in seagrass species (13) and form an important part of the SES within the tropical seascape of the WIO. Seagrasses provide livelihoods opportunities and basic animal protein, in from of seagrass associated fish e.g. Siganidae and Scaridae. Research, management and education initiatives are, however, nearly non-existent. In Chwaka Bay, the goods and ecosystem services associated with the meadows and also appreciated by locals were fishing and collection grounds as well as substrate for seaweed cultivation. Seagrasses are used as medicines and fertilizers and associated with different beliefs and values. Dema (basket trap) fishery showed clear links to seagrass beds and provided the highest gross income per capita of all economic activities. All showing that the meadows provide social-ecological resilience. Drag-net fishery seems to damage the meadows. Two ecological studies show that artisanal seaweed farming of red algae, mainly done by women and pictured as sustainable in the WIO, has a thinning effect on seagrass beds, reduces associated macrofauna, affects sediments, changes fish catch composition and reduces diversity. Furthermore, it has a negative effect on i.a. women’s health. The two last papers are institutional analyses of the human-seagrass relationship. A broad approach was used to analyze regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive institutions. Cooperation and conflict take place between different institutions, interacting with their slow or fast moving characteristics, and are thus fundamental in directing the system into sustainable/unsustainable paths. Ecological knowledge was heterogeneous and situated. Due to the abundance of resources and high internal control, the SES seems to be entangled in a rigidity trap with the risk of falling into a poverty trap. Regulations were found insufficient to understand SES dynamics. “Well” designed organizational structures for management were found insufficient for “good” institutional performance. The dynamics between individuals embedded in different social and cultural structures showed to be crucial. Bwana Dikos, monitoring officials, placed in villages or landing sites in Zanzibar experienced four dilemmas – kinship, loyalty, poverty and control – which decrease efficiency and affect resilience. Mismatches between institutions themselves, and between institutions and cognitive capacities were identified. Some important practical implications are the need to include seagrass meadows in management and educational plans, addressing a seascape perspective, livelihood diversification, subsistence value, impacts, social-ecological resilience, and a broad institutional approach.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för systemekologi, 2006. 62 p.
seagrasses, social-ecological systems, institutions, seaweed farming, artisanal fisheries, common-pool resources, natural resource management, Zanzibar, Tanzania, East Africa, Western Indian Ocean
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1061 (URN)91-7155-228-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2006-06-09, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 C, Stockholm, 13:00
Available from: 2006-05-18 Created: 2006-05-18Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Gullström, MartinÖhman, Marcus C.
By organisation
Department of ZoologyDepartment of Systems Ecology
In the same journal

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Total: 179 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link