What is it about?

Seagrass exists in an underwater environment where burial under sand is a common natural occurrence, but is frequently amplified by human activities such as sand dredging and land reclamation. This paper reports the results of a burial field experiment on four common tropical seagrass species performed in Tinggi Island, Johor (Malaysia). It establishes how many days and to what burial depths these species are able to survive being buried under sand. It also establishes which species are clonally integrated and how this affects the burial outcome. Clonal integration refers to the sharing of food resources between shoots of a clonal plant. We thought this might also influence a species' survival and tested for this effect by either allowing or obstructing unburied shoots from sharing resources with buried shoots.

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Why is it important?

This study is different from most other burial experiments of its time because it also tests the effect of clonal integration on survival rates. Previous experiments had overlooked the effect of clonal integration, resulting in the misperception that seagrasses were resilient toward burial. Our study shows, however, that the duration and burial depth a species can withstand is due in no small part to how readily that species is programmed to share resources between shoots.


This paper is especially memorable because it was my very first experience running an in situ field experiment. Waiting out the 27 days for this experiment was nerve-wrecking - we never knew when a storm might come by to wreck it. It has been gratifying to hear that this paper has been used extensively by colleagues to establish survival thresholds for sand dredging impact studies.

Dr Jillian Ooi
University of Malaya

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Effects of sediment burial on tropical ruderal seagrasses are moderated by clonal integration, Continental Shelf Research, December 2011, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2011.09.005.
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