Seagrasses are a diverse array of marine flowering plants growing along most of the world’s coastlines. Seagrasses underwent dramatic modifications to facilitate their survival in and colonization of the submerged marine environment including physiological changes to cope with salinity, with the evolution of hydrophily (underwater pollination) representing a major evolutionary shift.
Seagrasses have received considerable interest over the past three decades because of the important ecological functions they perform in estuarine and coastal ecosystems (supporting fisheries, nutrient cycling, coastal protection, and ‘blue carbon’) and concerns over the worldwide acceleration of seagrass habitat losses through increasing human use conflicts and frequency of natural disturbance.
Natural and human caused disturbances can degrade seagrass ecosystems beyond a threshold, altering ecological processes and conditions, after which recovery is unlikely without active intervention. Here, our research focuses on the ‘science behind’ seagrass restoration through applying principles such as adaptive management. Our goal is to improve our understanding of natural and restored population genetic structure, genetic provenance and clonal diversity, as well as to identify and overcome ecological processes and conditions limiting restoration success, be it abiotic, biotic or socioeconomic.
The Marine Restoration Ecology Team uses innovative and rigorous scientific approaches to understand the contributions of clonality, seed dispersal and recruitment in shaping population structure and connectivity among seagrass meadows. They unravel the interactions among seagrasses and the surrounding environment including abiotic (non-living physical and chemical factors that affect seagrass ability to survive and reproduce) and biotic factors (biological organisms or material that directly or indirectly affect seagrass in its environment).
The marine group is multi-disciplinary with specialisation in genetics, seed biology and ecology, aquaculture and tissue culture, marine ecology and marine restoration ecology. This well-integrated team are at the forefront of restoration science, supporting the emerging sector of marine ecological restoration.
Projects address both basic and applied issues that combine in situ and laboratory-based techniques across temperate and tropical biomes within Western Australia. Focus sites include: Cockburn Sound south of Perth and the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.