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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 685:97-109 (2022)  -  DOI:

Large-scale eelgrass transplantation: a measure for carbon and nutrient sequestration in estuaries

Troels Lange1,*, Nele S. Oncken2, Niels Svane1, Rune C. Steinfurth1, Erik Kristensen1, Mogens R. Flindt1

1Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark
2German Federal Institute of Hydrology, Unit U2, Am Mainzer Tor 1, 56068 Koblenz, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The accelerated global losses of seagrass meadows makes restoration increasingly important. This restoration study was conducted in a shallow Danish estuary and describes one of the rare examples of successful large-scale eelgrass Zostera marina restoration outside North America. A simplified 3-step site selection approach was successfully applied to locate an optimal site for large-scale transplantation. It consisted of (1) qualitative assessments of vegetation using aerial photos, (2) inspection of potential sites with assessments of stressor presence and potential growth conditions and (3) transplantation tests for a final assessment of site suitability and methodology. The large-scale transplantation was initiated at the test site with the highest shoot production. After transplantation, shoot densities developed rapidly, achieving a 70-fold increase in density after about 2 yr. A rapid edge expansion (0.32 m yr-1) of the transplanted area was detected using drone-based monitoring. Both the final shoot density and edge expansion were comparable to those of natural eelgrass patches in the estuary. Eelgrass-transplanted areas accumulated more fine sediment particles and organic C, N and P than adjacent unvegetated sediment. Burial of organic C, N and P in eelgrass-transplanted sediments was 33 ± 7.5, 6.6 ± 0.9 and 3.0 ± 0.5 g m-2 yr-1, respectively (mean ± SE). In addition, inorganic C and N were assimilated by eelgrass transplants at rates of 290 ± 22 and 12 ± 1.0 g m-2 yr-1, respectively. The results highlight that important ecosystem services are already restored 2 yr after successful eelgrass restoration.

KEY WORDS: Seagrass · Zostera marina · Restoration · Carbon burial · Nitrogen burial · Drone

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Cite this article as: Lange T, Oncken NS, Svane N, Steinfurth RC, Kristensen E, Flindt MR (2022) Large-scale eelgrass transplantation: a measure for carbon and nutrient sequestration in estuaries. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 685:97-109.

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