Direct evidence of imbalanced seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) shoot population dynamics in the Spanish Mediterranean

Núria Marbà*, Carlos M. Duarte, Elena Díaz-Almela, Jorge Terrados, Elvira Álvarez, Regino Martínez, Rocío Santiago, Esperança Gacia, Antoni M. Grau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Direct census of shoots tagged in permanent plots was used to assess the present (2000-2002) Posidonia oceanica population dynamics in 25 meadows along the Spanish Mediterranean Coast. Shoot density ranged from 154 ± 8 to 1,551 ± 454 shoots m-2, absolute shoot mortality from 5 ± 0 to 249 ± 53 shoots m-2 yr-1, and absolute shoot recruitment from <5 ± 1 to 62 ± 42 shoots m -2 yr-1. Specific shoot mortality and recruitment rates, which are mathematically and statistically (p > 0.05) independent of shoot density, varied from 0.015 ± 0.006 to 0.282 ± 0.138 yr -1 and 0.018 ± 0.005 to 0.302 ± 0.093 yr-1, respectively. Absolute shoot mortality rate was scaled to shoot density (Pearson correlation, r = 0.78, p < 0.0001), and variability in specific shoot recruitment rate was partially due to differences in the percentage of growing apexes, which produce most of the recruits within the population (Pearson correlation, r = 0.50, p < 0.001), demonstrating the existence of structural constraints on shoot demography. Shoot half-life was estimated to range from 2.5 to 60.4 yr and meadow turnover times between 6.7 yr and more than a century, provided current estimates of shoot mortality, recruitment rates, and density remain uniform. There were differences in shoot mortality and recruitment at the regional scale, with the meadows developing along the coast of the Spanish mainland experiencing the highest shoot mortality (Tukey test, p < 0.05) and tending to exhibit the highest shoot recruitment. The low shoot recruitment did not balance shoot mortality in most (60%) of the meadows, showing a prevalence of declining populations among the 25 meadows studied (Wilcoxon ranked sign test, p < 0.0005). This study demonstrates the power of direct census of seagrass shoots in permanent plots to evaluate the present status of seagrass meadows, to detect on-going population decline, and to provide some insight onto the possible factors involved. The incorporation of direct census of seagrass meadows to monitoring programs will help provide the early-warning signals necessary to support management decisions to conserve seagrass meadows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • General Environmental Science


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