SeagrassNet monitoring across the Americas: case studies of seagrass decline


Frederick T. Short, Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Department of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire, 85 Adams Point Road, Durham, NH 03824, USA.


Seagrasses are an important coastal habitat worldwide and are indicative of environmental health at the critical land–sea interface. In many parts of the world, seagrasses are not well known, although they provide crucial functions and values to the world's oceans and to human populations dwelling along the coast. Established in 2001, SeagrassNet, a monitoring program for seagrasses worldwide, uses a standardized protocol for detecting change in seagrass habitat to capture both seagrass parameters and environmental variables. SeagrassNet is designed to statistically detect change over a relatively short time frame (1–2 years) through quarterly monitoring of permanent plots. Currently, SeagrassNet operates in 18 countries at 48 sites; at each site, a permanent transect is established and a team of people from the area collects data which is sent to the SeagrassNet database for analysis. We present five case studies based on SeagrassNet data from across the Americas (two sites in the USA, one in Belize, and two in Brazil) which have a common theme of seagrass decline; the study represents a first latitudinal comparison across a hemisphere using a common methodology. In two cases, rapid loss of seagrass was related to eutrophication, in two cases losses related to climate change, and in one case, the loss is attributed to a complex trophic interaction resulting from the presence of a marine protected area. SeagrassNet results provide documentation of seagrass change over time and allow us to make scientifically supported statements about the status of seagrass habitat and the extent of need for management action.