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Ameliorating the impacts of nutrient pollution on seagrass ecosystems: the role of grazers and hydrodynamics

Nutrient pollution does not always lead to the same outcome in marine waters. In seagrass ecosystems, the addition of nutrients can result in high levels of algal growth and subsequent negative effects on the seagrasses. Yet in other cases, there may be relatively little obvious consequence of nutrient additions. ECU researchers are exploring the factors that can influence whether nutrient additions are likely to have deleterious consequences for seagrasses.

Among the factors that may offset the negative effects of nutrients are hydrodynamics and grazing. Earlier work we have undertaken showed that the movement of seagrass leaves in response to wave energy can result in dramatic reduction in the amount of algae growing on seagrass leaves. We also know that macroinvertebrate grazers, such as marine snails, can consume large amount of algae growing on seagrass leaves. However, the same snails may also be dislodged from leaves by wave energy. How these factors interact to affect the amount of epiphytic algae on seagrasses is the subject of this area of research.

The project includes a range of approaches, including: field experiments, in which we have manipulated nutrients, energy and grazers; and laboratory tests in a large, wave tank/flume.


Researchers

Professor Paul Lavery
Mr Ben Jones
Dr Kathryn McMahon
UFZ, Dr Britta Munkes
CSIRO, Dr Mat Vanderklift

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