Scientia Marina, Vol 83, No 4 (2019)

Sexual reproduction vs. clonal propagation in the recovery of a seagrass meadow after an extreme weather event

Diogo Paulo
Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve-Campus de Gambelas, Portugal

Onno Diekmann
Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve-Campus de Gambelas, Portugal

Ana Alexandra Ramos
Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve-Campus de Gambelas, Portugal

Filipe Alberto
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, United States

Ester Alvares Serrão
Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve-Campus de Gambelas, Portugal


Marine flowering plants can reproduce sexually and clonally, and the relative contribution of these two modes can be dependent on the environmental conditions. Zostera marina, a seagrass widely distributed in the northern hemisphere, can form annual and perennial meadows with different proportions of sexual versus clonal propagation depending on the environmental disturbance regime. We study the hypothesis that the contribution of sexual propagation varies during the recovery of a seagrass meadow. In this case study, we compare the proportion of sexual versus clonal propagation of a perennial Z. marina meadow before its disappearance due to winter storms and after recovery. Before disturbance, genotypic diversity was high, indicating frequent sexual reproduction events likely to create an abundant seed bank. Seedling germination allowed the population to recover after the extreme disturbance. As months passed, seedlings became rare and finally absent, giving place to adult shoots. In an advanced stage of colonization, the shoots colonized the area by vegetative growth, which lowered the genotypic diversity. Despite this reduction over time, the genotypic diversity of the new meadow is still high, demonstrating the importance of sexual reproduction in meadow recovery and persistence.


seagrass recovery; Zostera marina; genotypic diversity; impact; disturbance; life traits

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