Alternate Title

Seagrass Ecosystems: A Career-Long Quest to Understand their Inner Workings

Document Type

Ocean Reflections


Four decades of research findings associates on the ecology of seagrasses and their animal and plant associates are described here, along with some of the major changes and advances that have taken place in our understanding of the inner workings of these amazingly productive and diverse ecosystems. Of primary importance are shifts in the recognition of: 1) the importance of the nursery role of seagrasses and how it can be quantified; 2) the importance of direct herbivory in the trophic ecology of seagrass-dominated ecosystems; and 3) the primacy of consumer effects in determining the abundance of algal epiphytes that colonize leaves and other aboveground seagrass tissues. Exciting new areas of investigation include elucidating rhizosphere interactions, including developing a deeper understanding of the importance of nutrient foraging by seagrass roots, and of the microbial activities in the sediments that fix nitrogen and reduce toxic hydrogen sulfide concentrations. Increased understanding of the roles of genetic diversity and the size and integration of seagrass clones, as well as additional and better evaluations of the relative value of different seagrass meadows as finfish nurseries are also needed. Of great importance for seagrass researchers of the future is spending large amounts of time in the field developing a thorough understanding of the natural history of the many and varied inhabitants of seagrass meadows. The knowledge gained by this investment of time will be essential for the development of meaningful, new hypotheses and the means for testing them.

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heck.bio.pdf (102 kB)