Research Topic

Tropicalization in Seagrasses: Shifts in Ecosystem Function

About this Research Topic

Seagrass meadows form highly productive and diverse ecosystems that provide a range of ecosystem services along coasts of all continents except Antarctica. Amongst other functions, they provide important habitats for a range of species, improve water quality, sequester carbon, stabilize sediments, and export seagrass detritus to other ecosystems. While, these ecosystems are threatened from a range of direct human disturbances, e.g. dredging and eutrophication, at relatively small spatial scales, ocean warming is having a profound effect at much broader spatial scales. Increased ocean temperatures are causing a poleward shift in the distribution of many tropical species that is likely to produce changes in species composition and fauna-seagrass interactions. Combined, these effects are predicted to profoundly alter the production and functioning of seagrass ecosystems.

A range of coastal ecosystems, including seagrass meadows, are showing strong negative responses to elevated ocean temperatures and heatwave events in which temperatures exceed their thresholds. These temperature effects are enhanced by poleward shifts in the distribution of tropical consumers that introduce novel consumers in temperate systems. Far less is known about these effects on seagrass ecosystems compared to other coastal ecosystems such as kelp forests, though we are already seeing temperature-induced losses in some regions. Tropicalization is predicted to have profound effects on the production and functioning of temperate seagrass meadows, shifting them from detrital-based to grazing-based ecosystems and impacting the range of ecosystem services they provide, such as carbon sequestration, nursery habitat provision, and export of nutrients to other ecosystems.

In this Research Topic, we aim to provide recent advances in our knowledge of the effects of tropicalization on the functioning of seagrass ecosystems and the flow-on effects on other ecosystems in coastal seascapes. We will focus on papers that can present new findings through empirical field or experimental studies on one or more of the following topics.

• Effects of tropicalization on functioning and productivity of seagrass ecosystems;
• Novel grazer-seagrass interactions;
• Resilience of seagrasses to rising temperatures;
• Genotypic or phenotypic adaptations to rising temperatures; or
• Flow-on seascape effects from impacts of tropicalization on seagrass ecosystems.


Keywords: Seagrass, Tropicalization, Global Warming, Ocean Warming, Marine Heatwaves, Distribution Shifts, Ecosystem Shifts, Ecosystem Services, Ecosystem Function


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Seagrass meadows form highly productive and diverse ecosystems that provide a range of ecosystem services along coasts of all continents except Antarctica. Amongst other functions, they provide important habitats for a range of species, improve water quality, sequester carbon, stabilize sediments, and export seagrass detritus to other ecosystems. While, these ecosystems are threatened from a range of direct human disturbances, e.g. dredging and eutrophication, at relatively small spatial scales, ocean warming is having a profound effect at much broader spatial scales. Increased ocean temperatures are causing a poleward shift in the distribution of many tropical species that is likely to produce changes in species composition and fauna-seagrass interactions. Combined, these effects are predicted to profoundly alter the production and functioning of seagrass ecosystems.

A range of coastal ecosystems, including seagrass meadows, are showing strong negative responses to elevated ocean temperatures and heatwave events in which temperatures exceed their thresholds. These temperature effects are enhanced by poleward shifts in the distribution of tropical consumers that introduce novel consumers in temperate systems. Far less is known about these effects on seagrass ecosystems compared to other coastal ecosystems such as kelp forests, though we are already seeing temperature-induced losses in some regions. Tropicalization is predicted to have profound effects on the production and functioning of temperate seagrass meadows, shifting them from detrital-based to grazing-based ecosystems and impacting the range of ecosystem services they provide, such as carbon sequestration, nursery habitat provision, and export of nutrients to other ecosystems.

In this Research Topic, we aim to provide recent advances in our knowledge of the effects of tropicalization on the functioning of seagrass ecosystems and the flow-on effects on other ecosystems in coastal seascapes. We will focus on papers that can present new findings through empirical field or experimental studies on one or more of the following topics.

• Effects of tropicalization on functioning and productivity of seagrass ecosystems;
• Novel grazer-seagrass interactions;
• Resilience of seagrasses to rising temperatures;
• Genotypic or phenotypic adaptations to rising temperatures; or
• Flow-on seascape effects from impacts of tropicalization on seagrass ecosystems.


Keywords: Seagrass, Tropicalization, Global Warming, Ocean Warming, Marine Heatwaves, Distribution Shifts, Ecosystem Shifts, Ecosystem Services, Ecosystem Function


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

20 August 2021 Abstract
18 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

20 August 2021 Abstract
18 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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