Seagrasses: biology, ecology and conservation

Author(s): Larkum AWD, Orth RJ, Duarte CM


‘Elephants eat seagrass.’ This startling, but dubious mes-

sage from a colleague in Southeast Asia came thumping

into my office in 1976 at the West Indies Laboratory in

St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, on a tabletop-sized teletype

machine, intended to be an experiment in international

scientific communications. The machine, a considerable

amount of research funding, and frequent visits to our

laboratory by colleagues from all over the world, were

among the benefits of being a co-investigator at a key

study site for the Seagrass Ecosystem Study (SES), one of

the programs of the International Decade of Ocean

Exploration (IDOE) funded by the U.S. National Science

Foundation from 1974 to 1979.

The SES was led by Peter McRoy of the University of

Alaska, who with others recognized that the seagrasses,

while numbering only approximately 60 species, were glo-

bally widespread and were virtually unexamined, partic-

ularly from an ecological point of view. The SES put

seagrasses on the global map, produced a few hundred

publications and several books, but more importantly

helped to inspire the careers of numerous seagrass biolo-

gists and ecologists, many of whom are among the more

than 80 authors of the 26 chapters of Seagrasses: Biology,

Ecology and Conservation.

This exhaustively researched and superbly produced

book begins with taxonomy, evolution and morphology,

continues with biology, nutrient dynamics, physiology,

community ecology, remote sensing, ecosystem ecology,

and case studies. The progress in the field is dramatically

shown by comparing it with the book edited by the late

Phillips & McRoy (1980), who covered some similar

topic areas and opened the door to the 25 years of subse-

quent research reviewed herein. The final chapters

include landscape approaches to seagrass ecology and rec-

ommendations for their conservation in view of the

increasing human disturbances currently dominating

the global coastal zone. In contrast to the earlier book,

the decline of seagrasses and the need for science-based

management dominates the present concerns of all in the


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