Coastal retreat and improved water quality mitigate losses of seagrass from sea level rise

Saunders, Megan I., Leon, Javier, Phinn, Stuart R., Callaghan, David P., O'Brien, Katherine R., Roelfsema, Chris M., Lovelock, Catherine E., Lyons, Mitchell B. and Mumby, Peter J. (2013) Coastal retreat and improved water quality mitigate losses of seagrass from sea level rise. Global Change Biology, 19 8: 2569-2583. doi:10.1111/gcb.12218

Author Saunders, Megan I.
Leon, Javier
Phinn, Stuart R.
Callaghan, David P.
O'Brien, Katherine R.
Roelfsema, Chris M.
Lovelock, Catherine E.
Lyons, Mitchell B.
Mumby, Peter J.
Title Coastal retreat and improved water quality mitigate losses of seagrass from sea level rise
Journal name Global Change Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1354-1013
Publication date 2013-08-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/gcb.12218
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 19
Issue 8
Start page 2569
End page 2583
Total pages 15
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
Language eng
Abstract The distribution and abundance of seagrass ecosystems could change significantly over the coming century due to sea level rise (SLR). Coastal managers require mechanistic understanding of the processes affecting seagrass response to SLR to maximize their conservation and associated provision of ecosystem services. In Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia, vast seagrass meadows supporting populations of sea turtles and dugongs are juxtaposed with the multiple stressors associated with a large and rapidly expanding human population. Here, the interactive effects of predicted SLR, changes in water clarity, and land use on future distributions of seagrass in Moreton Bay were quantified. A habitat distribution model of present day seagrass in relation to benthic irradiance and wave height was developed which correctly classified habitats in 83% of cases. Spatial predictions of seagrass and presence derived from the model and bathymetric data were used to initiate a SLR inundation model. Bathymetry was iteratively modified based on SLR and sedimentary accretion in seagrass to simulate potential seagrass habitat at 10 year time steps until 2100. The area of seagrass habitat was predicted to decline by 17% by 2100 under a scenario of SLR of 1.1 m. A scenario including the removal of impervious surfaces, such as roads and houses, from newly inundated regions, demonstrated that managed retreat of the shoreline could potentially reduce the overall decline in seagrass habitat to just 5%. The predicted reduction in area of seagrass habitat could be offset by an improvement in water clarity of 30%. Greater improvements in water clarity would be necessary for larger magnitudes of SLR. Management to improve water quality will provide present and future benefits to seagrasses under climate change and should be a priority for managers seeking to compensate for the effects of global change on these valuable habitats.
Keyword Climate change
Coastal ecosystems
Multiple stressors
Remote sensing
Sea level rise
Spatial modelling
Species distribution
Wave model
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Grant ID FS100100024
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Mon, 20 May 2013, 20:25:26 EST by Dr Kate O'brien on behalf of School of Chemical Engineering