Adaptive intertidal seed-based seagrass restoration in the Dutch Wadden Sea

Laura L Govers, Jannes H T Heusinkveld, Max L E Gräfnings*, Quirin Smeele, Tjisse van der Heide

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Seagrasses form the foundation of many coastal ecosystems but are rapidly declining on a global scale. The Dutch Wadden Sea once supported extensive subtidal seagrass meadows that have all disappeared. Here, we report on the setbacks and successes of intertidal seed-based restoration experiments in the Dutch Wadden Sea between 2014-2017. Our main goals were to 1) optimize plant densities, and 2) reduce seed losses. To achieve our goals, we conducted research-based, adaptive seagrass (Zostera marina) restoration, adjusting methods yearly based on previous results. We applied various seeding methods in three subsequent years-from Buoy Deployed Seeding (BuDS), and 'BuDS-in-frame' in fall, to a newly developed 'Dispenser Injection Seeding' (DIS) method. Our adaptive experimental approach revealed high seed losses between seeding and seedling establishment of the BuDS methods (>99.9%), which we mitigated by controlled harvest and storage of seeds throughout fall and winter, followed by DIS-seeding in spring. These iterative innovations resulted in 83 times higher plant densities in the field (0.012 to 1.00 plants m-2) and a small reduction in seed loss (99.94 to 99.75%) between 2015-2017. Although these developments have not yet resulted in self-sustaining seagrass populations, we are one step closer towards upscaling seagrass restoration in the Dutch Wadden Sea. Our outcomes suggest that an iterative, research-based restoration approach that focuses on technological advancement of precision-seeding may result in advancing knowledge and improved seed-based seagrass restoration successes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0262845
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Zosteraceae

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