Functional traits in diverse seagrass communities: the relative importance and roles of effect and response traits.

Description

A major challenge in present ecological research is to predict how ecosystems respond to biodiversity loss and global change. One successful focus has been on the role of species traits in determining how communities affect ecosystem function and respond to changes. Most plant trait-based research has targeted terrestrial plants, while an effect-response trait framework for marine vegetated ecosystems, particularly globally threatened but important seagrass meadows, is lacking. The aim of this project is to investigate the interplay between seagrass response and effect traits and their effects on the stability of seagrass meadows (i.e. ability to maintain primary production) during synergistic light reduction and elevated temperatures. In addition, the project addresses generalizability of the importance of seagrass effect traits for primary production at a global scale by comparing two temperate regions with high seagrass diversity: Australia (Aus) and Finland (Fin). The research questions are addressed by conducting a field survey (20 sites) and two manipulative mesocosm experiments in Aus and comparing field survey data previously collected in Fin (30 sites). The manipulated disturbances mimic real-world seagrass stressors i.e. turbidity events (light reduction) and heat waves (elevated temperatures). The work will be conducted at the University of Western Australia and the University of Helsinki. The post doc fellow will have the opportunity to do groundbreaking and innovative research and acquire knowledge and expertise on seagrass ecology from one of the leading universities and research teams within this research field. She will also gain transferable research and communication skills that are essential for a successful international academic career. Results will reveal 1) how seagrass traits affect ecosystem functions, 2) whether diverse meadows can maintain functions during disturbance and 3) which traits contribute mostly to the stability of seagrass systems. The project outcome will greatly broaden the knowledge base of seagrass ecosystems by moving the research focus from descriptive monitoring to process-based research. Unraveling which combinations of traits are crucial for ecosystem function and stability during extreme events can support the adoption of an ecosystem approach in ecosystem management and facilitate the development of relevant conservation practices to ensure continuous coastal ecosystem functioning in a changing climate.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date01/09/201631/08/2019

Keywords

  • 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • Plant traits
  • ecosystem functioning
  • insurance hypothesis
  • environmental gradients
  • ecosystem stability
  • seagrass
  • temperate habitats
  • Western Australia
  • Baltic Sea