The future of seagrass ecosystem services in a changing world

Rebecca K. James

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

1582 Downloads (Pure)


Seagrass meadows are found growing on beach foreshores throughout the Caribbean. These underwater meadows greatly influence the coastal zone and provide services that benefit marine organisms and human communities, termed ecosystem services. Seagrasses photosynthesise, removing CO2 from the seawater, and provide a food source and habitat for fish, turtles and urchins. Furthermore, as waves travel over the seagrass canopy, the flexible seagrass leaves sway back and forth, removing wave energy and stabilising the sand on the seafloor. In doing so, seagrass meadows protect the beach foreshore slope from erosion. In this PhD, I show how these ecosystem services are dependent on healthy native seagrass meadows and healthy neighbouring ecosystems like coral reefs. When in a good condition, the seagrass meadows can help to naturally maintain stable beaches and make them resilient to extreme storms like category 5 hurricanes. This natural protection reduces the need for human intervention, such as sand nourishments and seawalls. Unfortunately seagrass meadows are under threat from human disturbance, invasive species and lowering coastal water quality. Degradation of tropical seagrass meadows puts tropical beaches at risk from erosion and threatens the many species that are reliant upon them as a food source and habitat. Ensuring seagrass meadows continue to exist is especially vital at this time when we require their ecosystem services to help combat rising sea-level and increasing storminess, which intensify coastal erosion. Continued loss of seagrass habitat will only help to exacerbate the negative effects of climate change facing tropical regions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Bouma, Tjeerd, Supervisor
  • Herman, P. M. J., Supervisor, External person
  • van der Heide, Tjisse, Supervisor
  • van Katwijk, M. M., Co-supervisor, External person
Award date25-Sept-2020
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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