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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
U.S. partner Dr. Susan Williams visited Makassar with four of her PhD students February 22 through March 5, 2015. During her visit, she and her students collaborated with Dr. Ambo-Rappe and her team on monitoring the transplantation experiments on both islands (Badi and Barranglompo) and evaluating the data gathered. They installed a new Hobo temperature logger at one experimental site, bringing to six the number of temperature loggers on Badi Island and two on Barranglompo Island. The researchers also used for the first time the water quality checker that Dr. Ambo-Rappe recently purchased to measure dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and salinity, and they also tested the team’s newly purchased PAR-meter and current meter. The Indonesian team collects regular measurements of these parameters at their seagrass transplantation site at Badi Island every month as part of their overall site monitoring program.

The highlight of Dr. Williams’s visit was a joint mini workshop held February 27 on Barranglompo Island to discuss the effects of marine debris on seagrass and marine life in general. As part of the workshop, the participants, including 40 local students from primary to high school age, carried out a marine debris census at selected points on the island. The participants also learned and shared their thoughts on marine life, identified marine creatures that they have seen around the island, and gained new insights on the functions of these creatures in the marine ecosystem and for human use, the reasons why they must be protected, and ways debris affects the ocean and life within it. During the second quarter of 2015, another workshop is planned on Badi Island, with the topic to be Seagrass and its Restoration. Dr. Ambo-Rappe and her team hope to obtain more data from this workshop regarding local knowledge on seagrass, the importance of seagrass to the local community, and activities related to seagrass ecosystems. They will also use the workshop to train participants on how to restore seagrass beds if they are degraded or destroyed.
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)
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