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Data from: Seagrass on the brink: decline of threatened seagrass Posidonia australis continues following protection

Citation

Evans, Suzanna M. et al. (2018), Data from: Seagrass on the brink: decline of threatened seagrass Posidonia australis continues following protection, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.r9n52

Abstract

Seagrasses are in decline globally due to sustained pressure from coastal development, water quality declines and the ongoing threat from climate change. The result of this decline has been a loss of coastal productivity, a reduction in critical fisheries habitat and increased erosion. Attempts to slow this decline have included legislative protection of habitat and direct restoration efforts. Monitoring the success of these approaches requires tracking changes in the abundance of seagrasses, but such monitoring is frequently conducted on large scales that lack the sensitivity to detect changes in time. Here, we used high resolution aerial imagery to quantify the change in meadows dominated by Posidonia australis over five years at 14 sites in five estuaries in south-eastern Australia. Australia has some of the world's most diverse and extensive seagrass meadows, but the widely distributed P. australis has a slow growth rate, recovers poorly after disturbance, and suffers runaway attrition if the conditions for recovery are not met. In 2010, after declines of 12-57% between the 1940s and 1980s, P. australis was listed as a threatened ecological community in New South Wales. We quantified changes in area at fine scales and, where loss was observed, describe the general patterns of temporal decline within each meadow. Our results demonstrate that seagrass meadows dominated by P. australis underwent declines of ~ 2-40% total area at our study sites between 2009 and 2014. In the iconic Sydney Harbour, our analyses suggest that P. australis meadows are declining at an average rate greater than 10% yr-1, exceeding the global rate of seagrass decline. Highlighting these alarming declines across the study region should serve as means to prioritise management action and review the effectiveness of legislative listing as a method to limit impacts at an ecosystem level.

Usage Notes

Location

New South Wales
Australia
Sydney