Angel fish on the seagrass meadow at Shark Bay, Western Australia. Photo: UWAView image slideshow

Project title: Ecological and genetic connectivity in seagrasses: the role of sexual reproduction, dispersal and recruitment on meadow restoration.

Dates: 2013 - 2016

Funding: Australian Research Council Linkage Grant

Location: temperate Australian waters, with a focus on the Perth metropolitan waters

Research themes

  • connectivity
  • seagrasses
  • marine flowering plants
  • pollen dispersal, seed dispersal
  • plant mating system
  • recruitment rates
  • hydrodynamic modelling

Project description

The goal of this research is to improve our understanding of the role of dispersal in contemporary demographics and genetics of an Australian seagrass genus Posidonia. The expected outcome is to understand the importance of long distance dispersal of seeds in determining resilience of seagrasses to both natural and anthropogenic disturbances.

A novel multidisciplinary approach to is being used to:

  1. Quantify genetic connectivity among meadows through pollen (dispersal within the water column) and seeds (floating fruit dispersal on the water surface) using molecular markers and population genetic assignment procedures, over multiple years;
  2. Quantify natural recruitment rates, success and growth in established meadows and open sandy substrate; and
  3. Integrate ecological and genetic data with a recently developed hydrodynamic model to infer the demographic consequences of dispersal for improved restoration practice and outcomes.

Key staff

Dr Elizabeth Sinclair, Dr Siegy Krauss, Dr Janet Anthony

Collaborators

Prof Gary Kendrick (UWA) and Prof Ryan Lowe (UWA)

Students

Suzanna Evans (PhD; UNSW, 2015) Genetic diversity and trophic interactions in seagrass beds. Supervisors: Dr Adriana Verges, Dr Elizabeth Sinclair, Dr Alistair Poore, Dr Peter Steinberg, UNSW.

Publications

Evans SM, Sinclair EA, Poore AGB, Bain KF and Verges A (2017) Assessing the effect of genetic diversity on the early establishment of the threatened seagrass Posidonia australis using a reciprocal-transplant experiment. Restoration Ecology doi: 10.1111/rec.12595

Kendrick GA, Orth R, Statton J, Hovey R, Ruiz Montoya L, Lowe R, Krauss SL and Sinclair EA (2016) Demographic and genetic connectivity: the role and consequences of reproduction, dispersal and recruitment in seagrasses. Biological Reviews.

Sinclair EA, Anthony JM, Greer D, Ruiz-Montoya L, Evans SE, Krauss SL and Kendrick GA (2016) Genetic signatures of Bassian glacial refugia and contemporary connectivity in a marine foundation species. Journal of Biogeography.

Sinclair EA, Hovey R,  Statton J, Fraser MW, Cambridge ML and Kendrick GA (2016) Comment on 'Seagrass viviparous propagules as a potential long-distance dispersal mechanism' by A.C.G. Thomson et al. Estuaries and Coasts. Estuaries and Coasts 39: 290-293.

Sinclair EA, Statton J, Hovey R, Anthony J, Dixon KW and Kendrick GA (2016) Reproduction at the extremes: pseudovivipary and genetic mosaicism in Posidonia australis (Posidoniaceae) Posidonia australis Hooker (Posidoniaceae). Annals of Botany 117: 237-247.

York PH, Smith TM, Coles RG, McKenna S, Connolly RM, Irving AD, Jackson EL, McMahon K, Runcie J, Sherman CDH, Sullivan B, Trevathan-Tackett S, Brodersen K, Carter AB, Ewers C, Lavery P, Roelfsema C, Samper-Villarreal J, Sinclair EA, Strydom S, Tanner J, van Dijk K-J, Warry F, Waycott M, Whitehead S (2016) Identifying knowledge gaps in seagrass research and management: an Australian perspective. Marine Environmental Research.

Sinclair EA, Walker DI and Kendrick GA (2015) Why are Australia's marine parks being reviewed so soon after they were signed off? The Conversation, Australia.

Evans SM, Sinclair EA, Poore AGB, Steinberg PD, Kendrick GA and Verges A (2014) Genetic diversity in threatened Posidonia australis seagrass meadows. Conservation Genetics 15: 717-728.

Sinclair EA (2014) Sexual promiscuity in the shallows. For People and Plants Summer: 27-30.

Sinclair EA, Gecan I, Krauss SL and Kendrick GA (2014) Against the odds: complete outcrossing in a monoecious clonal seagrass Posidonia australis (Posidoniaceae). Annals of Botany 113: 1185-1196.

Sinclair EA, Krauss SL, Anthony J, Hovey R and Kendrick GA (2014) The interaction of environment and genetic diversity within meadows of the seagrass Posidonia australis (Posidoniaceae). Marine Ecology Progress Series 506: 87-98.

Sinclair EA, Verduin J, Krauss SL, Hardinge J, Anthony JM and Kendrick GA (2013) A genetic assessment of a successful seagrass meadow (Posidonia australis) restoration trial. Ecological Management and Restoration 14: 68-71.

Presentations

Sinclair EA, Anthony JM, Ruiz-Montoya L, Krauss SL, Kendrick GA (2016) Understanding natural processes to assist recovery and restoration of seagrass meadows. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA), Hamilton, New Zealand.

Sinclair EA, Statton J, Greer D, Anthony JM, Fraser M, Krauss SL, Kendrick GA (2016) Shark Bay World Heritage site – seagrass recovery and restoration challenges in a changing ecosystem. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA), Hamilton, New Zealand.

Kendrick GA, Sinclair EA, Evans SM, Dixon KW, Krauss SL (2015) Marine restoration in a continentally distributed clonal species: Multiple approaches required? Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) Manchester, United Kingdom.

Kendrick GA, Ruiz-Montoya L, Lowe, R, Sinclair EA, Krauss SL, Thomas L (2015) Movement ecology of floating seeds: genetic connectivity among seagrass meadows is related to contemporary dispersal. Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, Portland, USA.

Sinclair EA, Evans SM, Krauss SL and Kendrick GA (2015) Ancient genetic signatures and long distance dispersal in a marine foundation species. 52nd Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA) Annual Conference, Geelong, Australia.

Evans SM, Sinclair EA, Poore, AGB and Vergés A (2015) The role of genetic diversity in the conservation of rapidly declining seagrass meadows. 52nd Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA) Annual Conference, Geelong, Australia.

Sinclair EA, Krauss SL and Kendrick GA (2014) Chaotic genetic patchiness and the recruitment bottleneck in seagrasses: Implications for restoration. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA), Noumea, New Caledonia.

Sinclair EA, Evans SM, Krauss SL and Kendrick GA (2013) Genetic connectivity among seagrass meadows (Posidonia australis). 50th Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA) Annual Conference, Gold Coast, Australia.

 Collecting floating Posidonia seeds at Woodman Point. Photo: UWA.

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