MEPS - Vol. 355 - Feature article

Edge of a dense, healthy eelgrass Zostera marina meadow in the western Baltic Sea. Photo: T.B.H. Reusch

Ehlers A, Worm B, Reusch TBH

 

Importance of genetic diversity in eelgrass Zostera marina for its resilience to global warming

 

Eelgrass Zostera marina is the most widespread aquatic angiosperm (or seagrass) on sedimentary coasts of the northern hemisphere. Eelgrass meadows provide key ecosystem functions as primary producers and as nursery habitat for macrofauna species, as well as for coastal protection and nutrient recycling. A heat wave throughout Europe in 2003 coincided with widespread mortality of eelgrass in the western Baltic Sea. In mesocosm experiments, Ehlers and co-workers demonstrated that heat stress is a cause of eelgrass die-off, while genotypic diversity buffered the negative effects. Responses of eelgrass genotypes to heat stress differed greatly among clones of the same meadow. This study supports conservation strategies for protection and enhancement of genetic/genotypic diversity in ecosystem engineers.

 

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