Humane Society International marine science grant 2010
Humane Society International (HSI) is pleased to announce that Dr Peter Macreadie of the University of Technology Sydney, an outstanding young scientist, has been awarded $7,000 to look at the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems by examining seagrasses in Lake Macquarie and Tuggerah Lakes.
This project is the largest scale Australian effort to examine the role of genetic variability in determining seagrass resilience. This will provide essential information for managing Australia's estuarine ecosystems in preparation for climate change.
There is still major uncertainty about how climate change will affect marine ecosystems, and this is largely because of a lack of understanding of the processes that provide insurance against environmental change, i.e. ecosystem resilience. While there is a good theoretical basis for how ecosystem resilience may be achieved, current theory remains largely unchallenged by empirical data. Recent authors have suggested that genetic diversity could be a critical factor for maintaining resilience in coastal ecosystems. The basis for this theory is that loss of genetic diversity increases the likelihood of inbreeding with deleterious effects, and lowers the ' evolutionary potential' of populations to adapt to variable environmental conditions (i.e. loss of polymorphism). Essentially, genetic impoverishment affects the resilience of populations to environmental change. Using disturbance-recovery experiments in seagrass habitats, the aim of this project is to test the importance of genotypic diversity for the resilience of NSW seagrasses to disturbance. This research will thus provide important information for the ongoing management of seagrass habitats, which are already in critical decline and face major threat from climate change.
Seagrasses are like the ' ˜canaries in the coalmine' of coastal ecosystems. They are ideal for developing an understanding of the resilience mechanisms as they are the first habitats in nearshore waters to respond to disturbance. Climate change may cause major marine habitat loss through increasing storms, rising water temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and increases in water.
Each year seagrasses provide ecosystem services worth $1.9 trillion,and their estimated value per hectare is 9-times higher than tropical rainforests. They facilitate nutrient cycling, prevent coastal erosion, and provide critical habitat for vast numbers of marine species.
Despite covering <0.5% of the sea bed, seagrasses and other vegetated coastal habitats store up to 70% of the carbon in the marine realm, making them the most intense carbon sinks on the planet. They also form the basis of the world's primary fishing grounds, supplying an estimated 50% of the world's fisheries and providing critical nutrition for the world's developing countries.
October 2010 UPDATE
Dr Peter Macreadie' s work continues to be widely acknowledged, and HSI wishes to congratulate Dr. Macreadie on his recent achievement in receiving the 2010 Brian Robinson Fellowship, managed by the Banksia Environmental Foundation.
For more information on The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales http://www.rzsnsw.org.au/
To read HSI's press release click here
photo credit: Joanne Saad
photo credit: Dr. Peter Macreadie