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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 August 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 and early fall of 2015, Dr. Rohani and her team continued monitoring their seagrass transplantation experimental plots every two weeks, particularly focusing on those off Badi Island. They are also measuring oceanographic parameters such as dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, salinity, photosynthetic activity rate (PAR), and current speed. Besides gathering data on the survival rate, density, and coverage in each seagrass treatment unit, they have added measurement of the extension rate of transplants beyond their original plots. They hope to be able to support the success of the seagrass transplantation criteria using this parameter. The project now involves six Master’s students supported to varying degrees with PEER funding. Additional diving gear has recently been purchased to accommodate the new team members.

U.S. partner Prof. Susan Williams of the University of California, Davis and her student Christine Sur visited Makassar for a collaborative research visit from August 31 through September 23, 2015. On September 8, the team conducted a marine debris census involving school children in Barrang Lompo Island. This activity has been done regularly twice a year (in March and September) during this PEER project. The students have been trained how to census the debris, categorize the materials (such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, glass bottles, cans, wood, leaves, rock, etc.), and measure the volume of each debris category. From this regular activity, the team has prepared a manuscript entitled “Upcycling marine debris: training a global, cross-culturally competent STEM workforce through environmental outreach” that they plan to submit for publication.

In the coming months, monitoring of the transplantation sites and oceanographic parameters off Badi Island will be continued and a workshop on Seagrass and Its Restoration will be organized on Badi Island. Dr. Rohani and her group hope to use the workshop to collect more data on local knowledge on seagrass, the importance of seagrass to the local community, and activities related to the seagrass ecosystem. In this workshop, they will also show the participants how to restore seagrass beds that have been degraded or entirely destroyed. Dr. Rohani plans to present a paper on her PEER project results at the conference of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Foundation, to be held in Portland, Oregon, November 8-12, 2015. Following the conference, she will travel to Washington, DC for meetings at USAID and the Smithsonian Institution.
2 - 319 Flume Study Prep

2-319 Debris Measuring

Dr. Ambo Rappe and Prof .Williams prepare seagrass for a flume study (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe).School children from Barrang Lompo Island measure marine deris volume (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe).
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