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Project Overview

We have been establishing seagrass as a model species for testing ecological principles and theory in the field. Seagrasses are a group of marine flowering plants that are both vitally important for ecosystem functioning and services, and also globally threatened. In the UK, the main species, eelgrass (Zostera marina), grows as fragmented monocultures in shallow coastal areas. Over the last three decades, we have been establishing a long-term field site for studying UK seagrass in the Isles of Scilly. We believe that our in-water monitoring is the longest annual seagrass survey in the world (1996-present), and currently we fulfil the UK’s statutory obligation to assess this species in the Isles of Scilly Special Area of Conservation. This monitoring forms the skeleton on which we have developed numerous related projects. We have supported two PhD projects recently; one developing novel approaches to quantify resilience using aerial remote sensing, and one aimed at understanding the population genetics of eelgrass at our study site. Our next research aim is to bring these complementary approaches (long-term ecological monitoring, spatial modelling, and population genetics) together to develop new insights into the processes and mechanisms controlling resilience and stability. We are also working with Natural England and Project Seagrass to use this ecological research for ecosystem management.