Seagrass secrets uncovered


Researchers are uncovering the secrets of seagrasses in Port Phillip Bay and Victoria as part of a collaborative study into this vital part of our marine ecosystem.

The project includes researchers from Melbourne University, the University of Tasmania, the Sydney University of Technology and Deakin University and is funded by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP).

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Seagrass in Port Phillip Bay. Photo: Tim Smith

 

The project aims to understand the resilience, reproductive biology and genetics of seagrass which is a primary producer – playing an important role as an ‘ecosystem engineer’.

Seagrasses recycle nutrients in the water and stabilise the marine environment helping to promote biodiversity and protect habitat.

Similar to the way in which coral reefs provide habitat in Queensland, seagrass colonies are part of vital habitat for a range of fauna species such as the King George Whiting, Australian Salmon and Pipefish.

Sieving seagrass sediment sample to look for seeds. Photo: Tim Smith
Sieving seagrass sediment sample to look for seeds. Photo: Tim Smith

Deakin University School of Life and Environmental Sciences Senior Lecturer, Craig Sherman said researchers were initially unsure of what the study would uncover.

“We discovered more seagrass diversity than expected in our research which helps us understand the regeneration processes in the bay.

“Diversity is essential for environmental adaptation which is why it is important for us to gain a greater insight about the processes that maintain seagrass populations.

“This research helps us understand the fluctuations in populations and how the seagrass responds to different influences,” said Mr Sherman.

Dr Paul York cutting  seagrass sample for research. Photo: Tim Smith
Researcher Dr Paul York cutting some seagrass samples for research. Photo: Tim Smith

Deakin University postdoctoral researcher, Tim Smith also worked on the project, examining the recovery times of seagrass in Port Phillip Bay.

“Our research showed that the Geelong arm is an important source of seagrass in Port Phillip Bay with high levels of seed production which suggests it is a ‘source site’.

“Seagrass is a really important ecosystem, so we need to understand its recovery mechanisms to ensure seagrass in Port Phillip Bay can recover from disturbances and environmental change in the future.

“It is particularly important to identify ‘source sites’ of seagrass that can enhance threatened sites so that they can be managed accordingly,” Mr Smith said.

Cut seagrass for research. Photo: Tim Smith
Cut seagrass for research. Photo: Tim Smith

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times Greening the Coast column.

 

Interested in learning more about seagrass? Watch the video below to find out more.

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