The use of storm fragments and biodegradable replanting methods allows for a low-impact habitat restoration method of seagrass meadows, in the eastern Aegean Sea
Emma A. Ward1,2*, Sarah K. Meek1,3, Dean M. Gordon1, Tom C. Cameron2, Mark D. Steer3, David J. Smith2, Anastasia Miliou1 & Thodoris Tsimpidis1
Seagrasses are important marine ecosystems but are vulnerable to physical damage from anthropogenic activities such as anchoring and trawling. Replanting damaged areas can represent a viable restoration strategy, yet current methods rely on the removal of plants from existing meadows and in some cases the use of nonsustainable planting materials. In this paper, we present evidence of a sustainable replanting strategy. Storm fragments of the endemic Mediterranean seagrass, neptune grass Posidonia oceanica were collected from the shore and shallow water, both the plagiotropic and orthotropic (horizontal and vertical) growth forms were then replanted using one of two biodegradable materials, coconut fibre pots or bamboo stakes, to secure them to the seafloor. Establishment of plagiotropic fragments were increased by bamboo anchorage (x̅ = 89% SE ± 0%) compared to orthotropic storm fragments (x̅ = 66.5% SE ± 6.5%). By contrast a coconut fibre method resulted in greater establishment of orthotropic fragments (x̅ = 79% SE ± 7%) compared to plagiotropic (x̅ = 51% SE ± 11%). Fragments showed some blade growth, but little shoot growth after 15 months. The fragment shoot and blade growth did not differ between the plagiotropic or orthotropic fragments replanted by bamboo stakes or coconut fibre pot. Our results suggest that the use of storm fragments and biodegradable anchoring materials constitutes a viable, non-destructive replanting technique in seagrass restoration. Furthermore success can be increased by selecting a growth-form appropriate planting method.