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The role of seagrasses in coastal protection in a changing climate

December 28, 2013

The contribution of seagrasses to coastal protection is examined through the review of the most relevant existing knowledge. Seagrasses are the largest submerged aquatic vegetation ecosystem protected in Europe and it is worth examining their contribution to coastal protection. The review performed highlights incident energy flux, density, standing biomass and plant stiffness as the main physical and biological factors influencing the efficiency of the protection provided by seagrasses. The main conclusion achieved is that seagrass meadows cannot protect shorelines in every location and/or scenario. The optimal conditions for enhancing the protection supplied might be achieved in shallow waters and low wave energy environments, with high interaction surface, at the vertical and horizontal dimension, between water flow and seagrasses. Likewise, the most favorable protection might be provided by large, long living and slow growing seagrass species, with biomass being largely independent of seasonal fluctuations and with the maximum standing biomass reached under the highest hydrodynamic forcings. It is shown that seawater warming, increasing storms and sea level rise, together with the increasing population and anthropogenic threats in the coastal area may lead to rates of change too fast to allow seagrasses to adapt and keep their coastal defense service. Finally, to amend the decline of seagrasses and consequent coastal protection loss, different artificial and natural adaptation measures are provided.

Ondiviela B, Losada IJ, Lara JL, Maza M,  Galvána C,  Bouma TJ, van Belzen J, in press, The role of seagrasses in coastal protection in a changing climate, Coastal Engineering, dpi:10.1016/j.coastaleng.2013.11.005. Article.

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