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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 1A
Sites on the sea floor are mapped out for the transplantation process (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe)
   Indonesia Partnership Picture 7
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
 
PI Rohani Ambo-Rappe and her project team embarked on a seagrass restoration experiment using 1000 seeds of two tropical seagrass species (Enhalus acoroides and Thalassia hemprichii) planted in the hatchery unit of Hasanuddin University at Barranglompo Island. These seedlings were produced for a workshop held at Barranglompo March 1-2, 2014. The goals of the workshop were to raise awareness of the importance of seagrass among members of the island community and to give them knowledge on how to restore degraded seagrass habitat. The workshop was attended by 160 participants, including island residents, university students, lecturers, and researchers. U.S. co-partner Susan Williams and two of her PhD students participated in the training event, which included classroom presentations and hands-on fieldwork, featuring planting of the hatched seagrass seedlings in the waters off Barranglompo Island. In late March 2014, thanks to PEER project funds, a technician and a master’s degree candidate also participated in a two-day training course in seagrass transplantation methods at Pari Island and a one-day seagrass workshop at the Research Center for Oceanography at the Indonesian Academy of Sciences.  
 
   Indonesia Partnership Picture 5
Dr. Ambo Rappe teeaches a class on seagrass restoration at Pari Island (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe)

   Indonesia Partnership Picture 6
Seagrass seedlings are transported to the restoration site (Photo courtesy Dr. Ambo-Rappe)

 
The project team also continued gathering data from its existing seagrass transplant plots created in the fall of 2013, and they conducted a fish census in late February involving five students and five scientists from both Indonesia and the United States. The purpose of the census was to evaluate the rate of success of the seagrass transplantation plots. In the months to come, continuous monitoring will be conducted on the restoration plot, using seedlings as agents. This means that more seagrass restoration methods will need to be tested for further application to different conditions of degraded seagrass habitat. The team will also be purchasing a portable water quality checker to monitor water quality in the restoration site.
 
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