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A novel approach to assess pollution in coastal ecosystems

Marine pollution is a significant management issue globally. The sediments underneath seagrass meadows can act as pollution reservoirs and can be used to assess historical pollution. With increasing pressures and environmental change, this research will examine whether environmental history captured in seagrass sediments can be used to:

  1. determine past and present marine pollution (persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals);
  2. quantify the pollution sequestration service provided by seagrasses; and
  3. determine the loss of pollutants to the environment after disturbance of seagrass ecosystems

The research will test the ability of seagrass sediment cores to reveal past pollution (Persistent Organic Pollutants –POPs – and Heavy Metals) and estimate the economic and ecological values of seagrass ecosystems as pollution filters and sinks. An important aspect of the proposed research is that it will advance our knowledge into a range of pollutants not normally considered in marine pollution studies, and rarely, if ever, in the context of marine pollution archives.

The second component will determine the extent to which disturbance of seagrass meadows can lead to the release of the pollutant stocks accumulated for thousands of years in the underlying sediments. This will demonstrate their potential ecological service value in terms of removal of marine pollution and its potential benefits for human health.

The research will improve environmental knowledge and develop an environmental assessment technique to inform management, contributing to the University’s goal of delivering quality research outcomes while engaging our broader communities. It will also strengthen our national and international research linkages, addressing a major strategic objective of the CMER.

Funding agency

ECU Early Career Researcher Grant

Project duration

November 2014 – November 2015


Dr Oscar Serrano Gras
Professor Paul Lavery
Associate Professor Andrea Hinwood
The University of Queensland, Professor Jochen Mueller
The University of Western Australia, Professor Carlos Duarte
The University of Western Australia, Professor Gary Kendrick
University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Professor Antonio Martinez-Cortizas

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