Reproductive Ecology of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) Across Varying Environmental Conditions

Reproductive Ecology of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) Across Varying Environmental Conditions Sexual reproduction is critical to the resilience of seagrass beds impacted by habitat degradation or environmental changes, as robust seed banks allow new shoots to establish each year. Reproductive strategies of seagrass beds range on a continuum from strictly annual to perennial, driven by local environmental conditions. We examined the reproductive dynamics of Zostera marina beds at six sites on the Atlantic coast of Canada to characterize how life history strategies are shaped by the surrounding environment. Sites were categorized as wave protected and wave exposed, where protected sites were warm, shallow, with little water movement and muddy sediments, and exposed sites were either shallow or deep, with cooler water and sandy sediments. While mixed life history strategies were evident at all sites, protected eelgrass beds exhibited both the highest and lowest sexual reproductive effort relative to exposed beds. These beds regularly experienced thermal stress, with higher temperature range and extended warm water events relative to exposed beds. The development of reproductive shoots were similar across sites with comparable Growing Degree-days at the beginning and end of anthesis, but the First Flowering Date was earlier at the protected warmer sites relative to exposed sites. With different reproductive shoot density among sites, seed production, seed retention, and seedling recruitment also varied strongly. Only one site, located in a warm, shallow and protected lagoon, contained a mixed life history population with a high reproductive effort (33.7%), strong seed bank, and high seedling establishment. However, a primarily perennial population with the lowest reproductive effort (0.5%) was identified at the warmest site, suggesting that conditions here could not support high sexual reproduction. Robustness of seed banks was strongly linked to reproductive shoot density, although the role of seed retention, germination and seedling survival require further investigation. Our study provides insights into one key aspect of seagrass resilience, and suggests that resilience assessments should include reproductive shoot density to inform their management and conservation. Cite this data: Vercaemer B. and Wong M. Reproductive ecology of Zostera marina L. (eelgrass) across varying environmental conditions. Published: May 2022. Coastal Ecosystems Science Division, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Dartmouth, N.S. https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/56cfea6f-aeca-47ed-94ab-c519d9e63c91 2022-07-22 Fisheries and Oceans Canada benedikte.vercaemer@dfo-mpo.gc.ca Nature and EnvironmentScience and TechnologyLife historyPhenologyReproductionSeed bankTemperatureGrowing Degree-daySeagrassResilienceOceans Data DictionaryCSV https://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/FGPPublic/Reproductive_Ecology_Zostera_marina_Eelgrass_Across_Varying_Environmental_Conditions/ZosteraMarina_DataDictionary.csv Technical ReportHTML https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304377021000930?via%3Dihub Reproductive Ecology of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) Across Varying Environmental ConditionsCSV https://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/FGPPublic/Reproductive_Ecology_Zostera_marina_Eelgrass_Across_Varying_Environmental_Conditions/CSV.zip Reproductive Ecology of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) Across Varying Environmental ConditionsFGDB/GDB https://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/FGPPublic/Reproductive_Ecology_Zostera_marina_Eelgrass_Across_Varying_Environmental_Conditions/Downloads.gdb.zip Reproductive Ecology of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) Across Varying Environmental ConditionsXLSX https://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/FGPPublic/Reproductive_Ecology_Zostera_marina_Eelgrass_Across_Varying_Environmental_Conditions/XLSX.zip Reproductive Ecology of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) Across Varying Environmental ConditionsESRI REST https://gisp.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/arcgis/rest/services/FGP/Reproductive_ecology_Zostera_marina_across_varying_environmental_conditions/MapServer Reproductive Ecology of Zostera marina L. (Eelgrass) Across Varying Environmental ConditionsESRI REST https://gisp.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/arcgis/rest/services/FGP/Reproductive_ecology_Zostera_marina_across_varying_environmental_conditions/MapServer

Sexual reproduction is critical to the resilience of seagrass beds impacted by habitat degradation or environmental changes, as robust seed banks allow new shoots to establish each year. Reproductive strategies of seagrass beds range on a continuum from strictly annual to perennial, driven by local environmental conditions. We examined the reproductive dynamics of Zostera marina beds at six sites on the Atlantic coast of Canada to characterize how life history strategies are shaped by the surrounding environment. Sites were categorized as wave protected and wave exposed, where protected sites were warm, shallow, with little water movement and muddy sediments, and exposed sites were either shallow or deep, with cooler water and sandy sediments. While mixed life history strategies were evident at all sites, protected eelgrass beds exhibited both the highest and lowest sexual reproductive effort relative to exposed beds. These beds regularly experienced thermal stress, with higher temperature range and extended warm water events relative to exposed beds. The development of reproductive shoots were similar across sites with comparable Growing Degree-days at the beginning and end of anthesis, but the First Flowering Date was earlier at the protected warmer sites relative to exposed sites. With different reproductive shoot density among sites, seed production, seed retention, and seedling recruitment also varied strongly. Only one site, located in a warm, shallow and protected lagoon, contained a mixed life history population with a high reproductive effort (33.7%), strong seed bank, and high seedling establishment. However, a primarily perennial population with the lowest reproductive effort (0.5%) was identified at the warmest site, suggesting that conditions here could not support high sexual reproduction. Robustness of seed banks was strongly linked to reproductive shoot density, although the role of seed retention, germination and seedling survival require further investigation. Our study provides insights into one key aspect of seagrass resilience, and suggests that resilience assessments should include reproductive shoot density to inform their management and conservation.

Cite this data: Vercaemer B. and Wong M. Reproductive ecology of Zostera marina L. (eelgrass) across varying environmental conditions. Published: May 2022. Coastal Ecosystems Science Division, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Dartmouth, N.S. https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/56cfea6f-aeca-47ed-94ab-c519d9e63c91

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Delivery Point: Bedford Institute of Oceanography, 1 Challenger Drive, PO Box 1006

City: Dartmouth

Administrative Area: Nova Scotia

Postal Code: B2Y 4A2

Country: Canada

Electronic Mail Address: benedikte.vercaemer@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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