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MARINFORSKHAV-Marine ressurser og miljø - havmiljø

Biodiversity in Northern European Seagrass meadows – drivers, responses, and resilience

Alternative title: Biodiversitet i nordeuropeiske ålegressenger – drivkrefter, respons og resiliens

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

In NORSE, we explore how biodiversity in seagrass meadows responds to human impacts and environmental factors, and how biodiversity can provide resilience to future stressors. Seagrass meadows are coastal ecosystems that provide many ecosystem services and support high levels of biodiversity, including fish, invertebrates, and algae. In Norway, the most common seagrass species is eelgrass (Zostera marina) which is found in shallow sandy areas across the entire Norwegian coastline. Seagrass meadows and their associated biodiversity are threatened by many human impacts, such as climate change, eutrophication, and overfishing. Through field sampling, NORSE project will explore how biodiversity in northern European seagrass meadows have changed over time and which human and environmental factors have contributed to these changes. Through mesocosm experiments across four different countries (Norway, Sweden, Germany, Finland), we also investigate how seagrass biodiversity responds to different combinations of stressors such as warming, nutrient enrichment, and salinity. Finally, through additional mesocosm experiments in Norway and Finland, we will explore how biodiversity can provide resilience to future human impact such as climate change. The results of this project will help us better manage and protect seagrass meadows and their biodiverse communities.

NORSE (Biodiversity in Northern European Seagrass meadows – drivers, responses, and resilience) will examine the role of concurrent anthropogenic factors and environment drivers on seagrass meadows and their associated biodiversity. NORSE will consider some of the most pressing anthropogenic factors (climate change, nutrient enrichment, overfishing, invasive species) across gradients of environmental drivers (wave exposure, salinity) across northern Europe. The project will also study how biodiversity and trophic interactions can provide resilience to concurrent stressors. To accomplish these goals, we will use a combination of comprehensive data collection across northern Europe and experimental mesocosm methods to provide regional-scale insights on these critical ecosystems. We have assembled an international group of experts in seagrass ecology, experimental methods, and communication that have the expertise to carry out this ambitious research project. Understanding how seagrass meadows respond to multiple concurrent factors and how biodiversity can provide resilience is critical to ensuring the conservation and future survival of these ecosystems and their valuable ecosystem services, including carbon storage, habitat for commercially- and functionally important species, and coastal protection. As efforts to conserve and restore seagrass meadows grow, the results will be directly applicable to managers, and also provide avenues for future research through the creation of Nordic mesocosm network. Through this combination of field and experimental methods, the results are NORSE is expected to have a large scientific and social impact high chance of pushing the frontier for understanding human impacts on this vital coastal ecosystem, and directly contribute to improving management in northern Europe and beyond.

Funding scheme:

MARINFORSKHAV-Marine ressurser og miljø - havmiljø