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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 449:133-143 (2012)  -  DOI:

Resilience of Zostera noltii to burial or erosion disturbances

Qiuying Han1,2,*, Tjeerd J. Bouma2, Fernando G. Brun3, Wouter Suykerbuyk2,4, Marieke M. van Katwijk4

1Key Laboratory of Coastal Zone Environmental Processes, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research (YIC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Coastal Zone Environmental Processes, YICCAS, Yantai Shandong 264003, PR China
2Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), PO Box 140,
4400 AC Yerseke, The Netherlands
3Department of Biology, Faculty of Marine and Environmental Sciences, University of Cádiz, 11510 Puerto Real, Cádiz, Spain
4Radboud University Nijmegen, Institute for Water and Wetland Research, Department of Environmental Science, Heyendaalseweg 135, 6525 AJ Nijmegen, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: Dynamic environments like seagrass habitats are characterised by continuous local erosion and burial processes, which may induce seagrass decline if disturbances become too intense or frequent. We aim to quantify for Zostera noltii the resilience of both the edge of a meadow and individual propagules to local-scale burial and erosion events. In a set of mesocosm and in situ manipulation experiments, we varied the frequency (sudden vs. continuous rate) and intensity (different levels; −6 cm erosion to 6 cm burial) of sediment dynamics. Our results showed that the intensity of the disturbance event (−6 up to 6 cm) was negatively correlated with plant survival. Burial frequency also had a significant effect on plant survival, with sudden events having a stronger negative impact than continuous ones. Both experiments, on individual propagules and attached rhizomes at meadow edges, demonstrated a rapid acclimatization of seagrass plants to sediment dynamics within certain levels of disturbance (−6 up to 6 cm). After erosion or burial, all surviving plants in the field and mesocosm experiments were able to relocate their rhizomes to the preferential depth (from 0.3 to 0.8 cm), which was the depth at which the rhizomes of undisturbed plants were most frequently found in the field. In situ manipulation experiments showed that at the edge of the meadow, Z. noltii invaded experimentally created hollows more easily than hills. Overall, our results demonstrate that Z. noltii meadows can rapidly recover by clonal growth after modest sediment disturbance, thereby contributing to the current understanding of seagrass recovery mechanisms following disturbances (e.g. sediment dynamics).

KEY WORDS: Recovery · Rhizome growth · Burial · Erosion · Disturbances · Zostera noltii · Seagrass · Resilience

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Cite this article as: Han Q, Bouma TJ, Brun FG, Suykerbuyk W, van Katwijk MM (2012) Resilience of Zostera noltii to burial or erosion disturbances. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 449:133-143.

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