Navigation Links
Tiny grazers play key role in marine ecosystem health
Date:4/2/2013

LAFAYETTE - Tiny sea creatures no bigger than a thumbtack are being credited for playing a key role in helping provide healthy habitats for many kinds of seafood, according to a new study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and U.S. Geological Survey.

The little crustacean "grazers," some resembling tiny shrimp, are critical in protecting seagrasses from overgrowth by algae, helping keep these aquatic havens healthy for native and economically important species. Crustaceans are tiny to very large shelled animals that include crab, shrimp, and lobster.

The researchers found that these plant-eating animals feast on the nuisance algae that grow on seagrass, ultimately helping maintain the seagrass that provides nurseries for seafood. The grazers also serve as food themselves for animals higher on the food chain.

Drifting seaweed, usually thought of as a nuisance, also plays a part in this process, providing an important habitat for the grazing animals that keep the seagrass clean.

"Inconspicuous creatures often play big roles in supporting productive ecosystems," said Matt Whalen, the study's lead author who conducted this work while at VIMS and is now at the University of California, Davis. "Think of how vital honeybees are for pollinating tree crops or what our soils would look like if we did not have earthworms. In seagrass systems, tiny grazers promote healthy seagrasses by ensuring algae is quickly consumed rather than overgrowing the seagrass. And by providing additional refuge from predators, fleshy seaweeds that drift in and out of seagrass beds can maintain larger grazer populations and enhance their positive impact on seagrass."

USGS scientist Jim Grace, a study coauthor, emphasized that seagrass habitats are also quite beneficial to people.

"Not only do these areas serve as nurseries for commercially important fish and shellfish, such as blue crabs, red drum, and some Pacific rockfish, but they also help clean our water and buffer our coastal communities by providing shoreline protection from storms," Grace said. "These tiny animals, by going about their daily business of grazing, are integral to keeping healthy seagrass beds healthy."

In fact, the authors wrote, if not for the algal munching of these grazers, algae could blanket the seagrasses, blocking out sunlight and preventing them from photosynthesizing, which would ultimately kill the seagrasses. Seagrass declines in some areas are attributed partly to excessive nutrients in water bodies stimulating excessive algal growth on seagrasses.

"Coastal managers have been concerned for years about excess fertilizer and sediment loads that hurt seagrasses," said J. Emmett Duffy of Virginia Institute of Marine Science and coauthor of the study. "Our results provide convincing field evidence that grazing by small animals can be just as important as good water quality in preventing nuisance algae blooms and keeping seagrass beds healthy."

The USGS scientists involved in this study serve as members of a worldwide consortium of researchers examining the health of seagrasses. This research by Virginia Institute of Marine Science and USGS researchers is the first in a series of studies worldwide on seagrass ecosystems.


'/>"/>

Contact: Gabrielle Bodin
boding@usgs.gov
337-266-8655
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Pew announces 2013 Marine Fellows
2. 2 new marine protected areas created on Argentinas southern coasts
3. Marine diversity study proves value of citizen science
4. New marine species discovered in Pacific Ocean
5. Vibrant mix of marine life found at extreme ocean depths, Scripps analysis reveals
6. Jurassic records warn of risk to marine life from global warming
7. Climate change clues from tiny marine algae -- ancient and modern
8. MBL scientists find bipolar marine bacteria, refuting everything is everywhere idea
9. Scientists use marine robots to detect endangered whales
10. WHOI research projects awarded $5.2 million to support marine microbial research
11. Fish have enormous nutrient impacts on marine ecosystems, study finds
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/1/2017)... , March 1, 2017  Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE), ... that Richard P. Moberg has resigned, effective ... and Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Aware citing ... serve as a member of the Board of Directors ... Aware,s co-Chief Executive Officer and co-President, General Counsel has ...
(Date:2/27/2017)... WASHINGTON , Feb. 27, 2017   Strategic ... fund, today announced it has led a $3.5 million investment ... collaboration platform. Strategic Cyber Ventures is DC based and ... and Hank Thomas . Ron Gula , ... Tech Ventures, also participated in this series A round ...
(Date:2/21/2017)... PORTLAND, Ore. , Feb. 22, 2017 ... Family of Companies (Avamere Health Services, Infinity Rehab, Signature ... research study that will apply the power of IBM ... living and health centers. By analyzing data streaming from ... insights into physical and environmental conditions, and obtain deeper ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:3/23/2017)... March 23, 2017  Agriculture technology company Cool Planet ... and note conversion to commercialize its Cool Terra and ... on developing products that are simultaneously profitable as well ... the last 18 months. This latest round of funding ... Partners. The company,s primary product, Cool ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... ... March 23, 2017 , ... Advanced Polymer Monitoring ... of Dr. Sigmund “Sig” Floyd as Vice President ? Global Business Development. Dr. ... activities. , “Dr. Floyd’s career has spanned 30 years in the chemicals and ...
(Date:3/22/2017)... ... March 22, 2017 , ... Researchers ... from small lab samples to full-size tissues, bones, even whole organs to implant ... system that delivers blood deep into the developing tissue. , Current bioengineering ...
(Date:3/22/2017)... , March 22, 2017  UBM and the ... announce their extended partnership and the third annual Massachusetts ... by the 21 st Annual MassMEDIC Conference ... place May 3-4, 2017. MassMEDIC ... Association (ADVAMED) President and CEO, Scott Whitaker ...
Breaking Biology Technology: