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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 197:231-240 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps197231

An experimental test of the occurrence of competitive interactions among SE Asian seagrasses

Carlos M. Duarte1,*, Jorge Terrados1, Nona S. R. Agawin1, Miguel D. Fortes2

1Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC-UIB), c/Miquel Marqués 21, 07190 Esporles (Mallorca), Spain
2Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City 1101, Philippines

ABSTRACT: The occurrence of competitive interactions among the seagrass species present in a multispecific SE Asian seagrass meadow was tested by the cumulative removal of shoots of an increasing number of seagrass species from the meadow in order of decreasing and increasing resource requirements for plant growth. The removal of shoots of the dominant species Thalassia hemprichii had very few effects on shoot size, shoot density and leaf area index of the extant seagrass species. The shoot density of Enhalus acoroides decreased when T. hemprichii shoots were removed, but that of Syringodium isoetifolium increased when the shoots of all the species with higher resource requirements than itself were removed from the experimental plots. The size of Halophila ovalis shoots decreased by 30% when both T. hemprichii and E. acoroides shoots were removed from the plots. The shoot density of T. hemprichii increased only when the shoots of all the accompanying species were removed from the plots. The results show that species interactions in this multispecific seagrass meadow are asymmetric. The elucidation of the nature of the interactions among seagrass species provides a key to understanding the maintenance of the high biodiversity and production that characterizes pristine SE Asian coastal ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Interspecific competition · Tropical seagrasses · SE Asia

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