Impediments to understanding seagrasses response to global change

Review of seagrass knowledge reveals gaps and biases in sampling practices across spatial, temporal and taxonomic dimensions

Amphibolis griffithii
Amphibolis griffithii (J.M.Black) Hartog observed in Normanville Beach, Australia by David Muirhead (CC BY-NC 4.0)

A major clade of about 70 species belonging to the Alismatales order, seagrasses are important marine plants, playing key roles in productivity, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, while also providing food for marine herbivores and nursery grounds for many fishes and invertebrates.

Focused on exploring the response of seagrasses to global change, this paper assessed the current available knowledge of the group in order to identify potential gaps and biases that might impede successful predictions.

Exploring sampling biases using occurrence data available for the clade through GBIF.org, the study reveals spatial gaps in Western and Central Indo-Pacific and temporal bias towards spring and summer months—and very few records from before 1900. The authors also deteced a weak phylogenetic signal in collection frequency, indicating some degree of taxonomic bias within the clade. The study also points to a lack of available phylogenetic and evolutionary knowledge for seagrasses.

With 31 per cent of seagrass species in global decline, conservation action requires addressing these shortfalls. The authors suggest increased funding for for seagrass monitoring programmes and specimen digitization, support for technological advances, such as DNA sequencing, and improving analytical and computational tools available to researchers.

Rock BM and Daru BH (2021) Impediments to Understanding Seagrasses’ Response to Global Change. Frontiers in Marine Science. Frontiers Media SA 8. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2021.608867