Around Australia, an estimated five million hectares of seagrass beds in coastal and estuarine waters provide critical environmental and socio-economic services such as wave and storm buffering, enhanced water quality and habitat for other organisms.
And A/Prof Gribben says that similar to growing healthy plants in your garden, these vital seagrasses need good sediment conditions to grow.
“Microbes within sediments control nutrient and chemical cycling as well as interactions with other species such as invasive plants. By learning more about their impact, we can better understand the sediment conditions that enable seagrasses to flourish, ultimately improving seagrass health and restoration,” says A/Prof Gribben.
An important aspect of Prof Gribben’s research is gaining an understanding of how microbes control seagrasses across temperate to tropical regions—and whether the same approaches may be useful under different temperature conditions. To support this, the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, University of Western Australia and University of Tasmania are collaborating on the project to help investigate ecosystems in different regions across Australia. And with Singapore already investing heavily in restoring coastal habitat, they have also partnered with the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering to gain an understanding of the conditions impacting seagrasses in Singapore.
A/Prof Gribben says that they hope any lessons learnt will feed into important environmental policy decisions.
“The NSW Department of Primary Industries, the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and key environmental managers in both states are deeply involved with the project, so we have a really strong pathway to impact to management and policy development around seagrass restoration."