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Influence of Spacing on Mechanically Transplanted Seagrass Survival in a High Wave Energy Regime


Address correspondence to Eric I. Pauling, e-mail


Abstract The wave-exposed nature of much of the southwestern Australian coastline considerably reduces the protective influence of seagrasses, and sediment movement appears to be relatively unaffected by their presence. Present seagrass restoration efforts focus on the deployment of large mechanically transplanted “sods” of seagrass as a means of combating the negative effects of water motion on transplant survival. The aim of this study was to investigate the combined role of wave energy and transplant spacing on sediment movement and transplant survival to provide guidance for seagrass transplantation in areas of high wave energy. One hundred sixty sods (0.25 m2) of seagrass were mechanically extracted from a mixed meadow consisting of Amphibolis griffithii (Cymodoceaceae) and Posidonia coriacea (Posidoniaceae) and planted in a high wave energy site with the treatments configured as three replicates of 16 sods placed in 4 × 4–meter squares at distances of 0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 meters apart. An additional 16 single sods were planted randomly throughout the site. Monitoring was conducted at two monthly intervals and consisted of counting the number of sods surviving and measuring the shoot density of seagrass species within each surviving sod. Sediment height was monitored using a series of sediment plates and an electronic sediment level sensor. Sod spacing had no significant effect upon transplant survival, which remained above 90% for 4 months after transplantation and then declined with the onset of winter (June to August). After 14 months individual sod survival was between 9% and 40%. Initial shoot densities were 200 to 500 shoots/m2 and declined to less than 50 shoots/m2. Sediment fluctuations up to 35 cm were noted, occasionally taking place over a matter of hours, and storms during winter caused significantly increased sediment movement. This probably curtailed rhizome extension and prevented the expansion of the transplants. This study indicates that the ability of seagrasses to influence sediment would appear to vary with the prevailing hydrodynamic regime and that a reappraisal of the notion that all seagrass communities trap sediment is necessary.