Recovery pathways from small scale disturbance in a temperate Australian seagrass

Smith, Timothy M., York, Paul H., Macreadie, Peter I., Keough, Michael J., Ross, D. Jeff, and Sherman, Craig D.H. (2016) Recovery pathways from small scale disturbance in a temperate Australian seagrass. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 542. pp. 97-108.

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Recovery from disturbance is a key element of ecosystem persistence, and recovery can be influenced by large scale regional differences and smaller local scale variations in environmental conditions. Seagrass beds are an important yet threatened nearshore habitat and recover from disturbance by regrowth, vegetative extension, and dispersive propagules. We described recovery pathways from small-scale disturbances in the seagrass Zostera nigricaulis in Port Phillip Bay, a large embayment in south-eastern Australia and tested whether these pathways differed between five regions with different hydrodynamic conditions and water quality, and between sites within those regions. Recovery pathways were broadly consistent. When above-ground biomass was removed, recovery, defined as the point at which disturbed areas converged with undisturbed controls, took 2 - 8 months, but when we removed above- and below-ground biomass, it took between 2 - 13 months. There was no evidence of recovery from sexual reproduction at any sites regardless of the presence of seeds in the sediment or flower production. We found no regional differences in recovery, but substantial differences between local sites. At some sites rapid recovery occurred because seagrasses grew quickly, but at others, apparent recovery occurred because regrowth coincided with overall declines in cover of undisturbed areas. Recovery time was unrelated to seagrass canopy height, biomass, percentage cover, stem density, seed bank density, epiphyte cover or sediment organic matter in seagrass adjacent to disturbance experiments. This study highlights the importance of understanding fine-scale variation in local recovery mechanisms, which may override or obscure any regional signal.

Item ID: 41104
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: Zostera nigricaulis, Port Phillip Bay, sexual reproduction, asexual reproduction, resilience, spatial scales, Heterozostera nigricaulis
Funders: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Early Career Award DE130101084
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2016 01:50
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060207 Population Ecology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 60%
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