Seminar Details

Assessing the current and predicted ecological status of Halophila stipulacea meadows in Eilat




Dr. Gidon Winters - The Dead Sea & Arava Science Center


Seagrass meadows thrive in shallow sedimentary shorelines, where they fulfil important ecological services estimated at US$ 2.8 106 km-2 yr-1. Lack of attention to seagrasses in the Gulf of Aqaba (GoA) is surprising considering that many of the services and functions provided by local meadows, are important for neighboring coral reefs. Worldwide, seagrasses meadows are disappearing at alarming rates due to rising sea temperatures and other direct anthropogenic disturbances. For conservation and management of these resources, there is growing interest in mapping meadows, developing diagnostic tools that could more effectively identify changes in seagrass ecological status at an early stage, and predicting the future of seagrasses under scenarios of climate change. To assess the current ecological status of Halophila stipulacea, the most common seagrass in the GoA, meadows along the shores of Eilat were mapped and selected meadows were characterized by using an integrated approach to highlight the possible differences in their ecological status. For this, leaf morphometrics, photosynthetic pigments and total phenols contents, were coupled with the plants’ epiphytic microbial community structure and composition, studied using pyrosequencing. To predict the effects of rising sea temperatures on Halophila stipulacea, we compared the responses of native (Eilat, Israel) and invasive (Limassol, Cyprus) H. stipulacea populations to current (27℃) and predicted summer maximum water temperatures (29℃ and 32℃) in a controlled experimental microcosm. Taken together, the results presented here have important implications for biodiversity management and conservation in both the GoA and elsewhere.

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