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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: September 2013 to January 2017
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 April through June 2016, the PI and her group continued their regular monitoring visits to their project sites at Pulau Badi and Barranglompo to collect data from four experiments. These experiments were aimed at testing different conditions for cultivating seagrass plants and determining the effect of macroalgae coverage on natural and transplanted seagrass beds. All of the experiments were completed by mid-June, and the researchers are currently analyzing the data. Master’s students Mr. Steven Rante Limbong and Ms. Nur Tri Handayani are preparing their theses based on two of the experiments.

With regard to dissemination and outreach, Dr. Ambo-Rappe made a presentation on her project at the National Symposium on Dugong and Seagrass Habitat at the Bogor Agricultural Institute April 19-22, 2016. The focus of the symposium was to understand the importance of seagrass to the dugong, a unique animal that is highly dependent on seagrass as both a food source and habitat. The declining number of dugongs might correlate with the declining area of seagrass, so seagrass restoration and rehabilitation is crucial to maintain this population. On May 14, 2016, the team also conducted an outreach activity on Pulau Badi on “The Importance of Seagrass to Marine Life and the Island Community.” This event targeted elementary and junior high school students and featured activities including class sessions and games. The activity was conducted at the Learning Centre, a wooden house built on the island by MARS Symbioscience. Most recently, the PI and her colleagues organized a workshop on seagrass research in Indonesia July 19-20, 2016, in collaboration with the Waterloo Foundation. The event had 20 participants from all over Indonesia, including four key stakeholders. U.S. partner Prof. Susan Williams is also visiting Makassar through late August, during which she and the team will do field work, analyze data, and prepare another manuscript on data from experimental work at Barranglompo.

Dr. Ambo-Rappe also reports that she has been in communication with staff from the Indonesian National Conservation Agency for Sea and Coastal Areas, which has expressed interest in implementing the seagrass restoration method developed under her project in their conservation areas. She will be working to develop an action document to guide this collaboration with the agency. The team has submitted a revision of a manuscript to Aquatic Botany (an Elsevier journal), and another manuscript based on PEER results is under peer review in preparation for submission to Science
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).