The importance of scale for faunal colonisation, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning in restored seagrass meadows

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Karine Gagnon , Enora-Hawa Bocoum , Carrie Chen Chiau Yu , Susanne Baden , Per-Olav Moksnes4 , Eduardo Infantes

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Anthropogenic stressors have reduced seagrass cover around the world. Restoration can reverse these declines, but seagrass restoration success has been low. Large-scale planting is known to increase restoration success by assuring scale-dependent interactions and feedback mechanisms, but also increases pressure on donor populations and associated monetary costs. Here, we tested the role of patch size and configuration in a large-scale eelgrass (Zostera marina) restoration project in the Swedish Skagerrak (North Sea). We planted four large (25 x 25 m) plots with different configurations and patch sizes (one continuous plot, three plots with large, medium, and small patches). We measured seagrass shoot density and associated invertebrate (epifauna and infauna) communities, biodiversity, and functional diversity, in comparison to a nearby healthy control meadow. After one growing season, shoot density in the planted plots had increased but not yet reached the same density as in the meadow. The total invertebrate abundance was similar across the meadow and four planted plots. However, species richness was lower in the planted plots than the meadow, and the species composition, functional diversity, and community structure differed between the meadow and planted plots, and between different treatments (patch sizes). Overall, our results show that restored seagrass can quickly be colonised by diverse invertebrate communities, but that configuration and patch size are important determinants of the resulting community structure and functional traits. Several more years of monitoring will be necessary to fully understand how restoration scale affects biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and to determine optimal restoration configuration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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