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Effectiveness and consistency of a suite of descriptors for assessing the ecological status of seagrass meadows (Posidonia oceanica L. Delile)

July 9, 2013

The increasing rate of human-induced environmental changes on coastal marine ecosystems has created a demand for effective descriptors, in particular for those suitable for monitoring the status of seagrass meadows. Growing evidence has supported the useful application of biochemical and genetic descriptors such as secondary metabolite synthesis, photosynthetic activity and genetic diversity. In the present study, we have investigated the effectiveness of different descriptors (traditional, biochemical and genetic) in monitoring seagrass meadow conservation status. The Posidonia oceanica meadow of Monterosso al Mare (Ligurian sea, NW Mediterranean) was subjected to the measurement of bed density, leaf biometry, total phenols, soluble protein and photosynthetic pigment content as well as to RAPD marker analysis. This suite of descriptors provided evidence of their effectiveness and convenient application as markers of the conservation status of P. oceanica and/or other seagrasses. Biochemical/genetic descriptors and those obtained by traditional methods depicted a well conserved meadow with seasonal variability and, particularly in summer, indicated a healthier condition in a portion of the bed (station C), which was in agreement with the physical and sedimentological features of the station. Our results support the usefulness of introducing biochemical and genetic approaches to seagrass monitoring programs since they are effective indicators of plant physiological stress and environmental disturbance.

Rotini A, Belmonte A, Barrote I, Micheli C, et al., in press. Effectiveness and consistency of a suite of descriptors for assessing the ecological status of seagrass meadows (Posidonia oceanica L. Delile), Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 2013, doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2013.06.015. Article.

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