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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Combating Seagrass Decline: Developing a Restoration Manual for Indonesia and the Coral Triangle

PI: Rohani Ambo-Rappe (Hasanuddin University)
U.S. Partners: John J. Stachowicz and Susan L. Williams (University of California, Davis)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2016
The goal of this project is to advance the ecological understanding of seagrass restoration to reverse damage and loss of associated ecosystem functions, such as provision of food, habitat, and nursery areas for diverse marine organisms, including commercially valuable or endangered species such as sea cucumbers (bêche de mer or trepang), snappers, groupers, dugongs, and sea turtles. Seagrasses are marine flowering plants that form large, shallow, undersea meadows. They are as productive as sugar cane, stabilize shorelines against erosion, and form critical habitat links between land, mangroves, and coral reefs. Seagrass meadows also serve as sinks for trapping excess atmospheric carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, they are declining at rates equal to tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Indonesia is a hot-spot for global seagrass diversity; however, the region does not receive the research attention it merits, and seagrass status is poorly documented for Indonesia. Besides their other beneficial roles, seagrass beds also contribute significantly to people’s livelihoods, and seagrass conservation, management, and restoration are urgently needed.

Indonesia Partnership Picture 1AIndonesia Partnership Picture 7
Sites on the sea floor are mapped out for the transplantation process (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe)Dr. Ambo-Rappe (center) transplants the seagrass Enhalus acroroides in the designated site (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe)

This project will create a pilot seagrass restoration by transplanting different combinations of seagrass species to determine which combinations have the best performance in terms of seagrass growth and persistence and the diversity and abundance of associated animals. The project researchers will also measure the performance of commercially-valuable sea cucumber juveniles in the different mixtures of seagrass species. This research will be the first to address the role of different seagrass species in seagrass restoration in the Coral Triangle. Although it is generally known that some species facilitate or inhibit the growth of others during the establishment of plant communities, the specifics are not known for Indo-Pacific seagrass communities. The knowledge gained will help guide restoration practices and will provide new data on the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem function, which is important for the conservation of marine biodiversity. Other project outcomes will include development of a manual for restoring Coral Triangle seagrass beds and their ecosystem functions, as well as creation of a seagrass curriculum for the local primary schools to raise awareness of the value of seagrass and engage children in the project activities. As for the research infrastructure at Hasanuddin University, the institution’s Marine Station will be developed further and research opportunities for faculty, staff, and students will be enhanced.

Summary of Recent Activities
During the summer of 2014, Dr. Rohani Ambo-Rappe and her team continued to the monthly monitoring of the experimental seagrass transplantation plots from Experiment I in Barranglompo. Most of the transplanted seagrass has grown new shoots which directly correlates with the increasing seagrass transplant percent cover, especially for Enhalus acoroides which has the highest survival rate.

Beginning in the second week of July 2014, the team prepared a second experiment on seagrass transplantation and chose Badi Island as it has very different environmental conditions. Badi Island was also chosen for the second experiment due its little remaining seagrass and is therefore ideal for seagrass transplantation/restoration. The team performed a detailed survey on Badi Island to find an ideal site for the transplantation experiment and also surveyed seagrass around the island to determine its condition in order to find a donor site. Sediment and water were sampled and sent to the laboratory for analysis on nutrient content and GPS beacons were installed to identify growth changes among the seagrass. The experiment was conducted following the same guidelines as Experiment I and was assisted by US partner Prof. Susan Williams and six students from UCD who arrived in Makassar at the end of August.

2 - 319 Flume Study Prep

2-319 Flume Study

Dr. Ambo Rappe and Prof .Williams prepare seagrass for a flume study. (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe)A flume study conducted to determine the response of different seagrass species to water velocity (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe)
In September, Dr. Rohani Ambo-Rappe visited Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) at the University of California at Davis for a month to receive training in research on seagrass ecosystem functions. While there, she worked with her partner to analyze the data from Experiment I and has begun a paper discussing the results. Together, they also reviewed a previous paper authored by Dr. Rohani Ambo-Rappe and submitted it to the Elsevier Journal “Aquatic Botany.”

In the Fall, Dr. Rohani Ambo-Rappe and her team plan to monitor the water quality, temperature, and light parameters of Experiment II in more detail. The team will also continue to regularly monitor the two seagrass transplantation experiments on bimonthly intervals.
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