Nav: Home

Extensive seagrass meadows discovered in Indian Ocean through satellite tracking of green turtles

April 11, 2018

Research led by Swansea University's Bioscience department has discovered for the first time extensive deep-water seagrass meadows in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean through satellite tracking the movement of green sea turtles.

A new study by Swansea University and Deakin University academics, published in the recent Marine Pollution Bulletin, reported how the monitoring of the turtles -- which forage on seagrasses - tracked the species to the Great Chagos Bank, the world's largest contiguous atoll structure in the Western Indian Ocean.

This area lies in the heart of one of the world's largest Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the study involved the use of in-situ SCUBA and baited video surveys to investigate the day-time sites occupied by the turtles, resulting in the discovery of extensive monospecific seagrass meadows of Thalassondendron ciliatum.

These habitats are critically important for storing huge amounts of carbon in their sediments and for supporting fish populations.

At three sites that extended over 128?km of the Great Chagos Bank, there was a high seagrass cover (average of 74%) at depths to 29 metres.

The mean species richness of fish in the seagrass meadows was 11 species per site, with a mean average of 8-14 species across the aforementioned three sites.

Results showed a high fish abundance as well as a large predatory shark recorded at all sites and given that the Great Chagos Bank extends over approximately 12,500?km and many other large deep submerged banks exist across the world's oceans, the results suggest that deep-water seagrass may be far more abundant than previously suspected.

Reports of seagrass meadows at these depths with high fish diversity, dominated by large top predators, are relatively limited.

Dr Nicole Esteban, a Research Fellow at Swansea University's Biosciences department, said: "Our study demonstrates how tracking marine megafauna can play a useful role to help identify previously unknown seagrass habitat.

"We hope to identify further areas of critical seagrass habitat in the Indian Ocean with forthcoming turtle satellite tracking research."

Dr Richard Unsworth, from Swansea University's Biosciences department, said: "Seagrasses struggle to live in deep waters due to their need for high light, but in these crystal clear waters of Chagos these habitats are booming.

"Given how these habitats are threatened around the world it's great to come across a pristine example of what seagrass meadows should look like."
-end-
This research was led by the Bioscience department at Swansea University, alongside the involvement of researchers at Deakin University.

Swansea University

Related Turtles Articles:

Warming temperatures threaten sea turtles
This research suggests that that warmer temperatures associated with climate change may lead to higher numbers of female sea turtles and increased nest failure.
Soft shelled turtles, food in China, likely spread cholera
The pathogen, Vibrio cholerae can colonize the surfaces, as well as the intestines of soft shelled turtles.
Logging threatens breeding turtles
Debris from logging in tropical forests is threatening the survival of hatchling leatherback turtles and the success of mothers at one of the world's most important nesting sites in Colombia.
Is it a boy or is it a girl? New method to ID baby sea turtles' sex
Is it a boy or is it a girl? For baby sea turtles it's not that cut and dry.
Study shows signs of hope for endangered sea turtles
Bones from dead turtles washed up on Mexican beaches indicate that Baja California is critical to the survival of endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles, which travel some 7,500 miles from their nesting sites in Japan to their feeding grounds off the coast of Mexico.
Exeter research helps protect loggerhead turtles
A long-running research and conservation project is helping save an at-risk species of turtle.
Nomads no more, leatherback turtles find permanent coastal home
Endangered leatherback sea turtles are known for their open-ocean migratory nature and nomadic foraging habits - traveling thousands of miles.
Belize's Glover's Reef providing refuge for new generation of sea turtles
A new generation of threatened hawksbill sea turtles is thriving in the protected waters of Glover's Reef Atoll, Belize, evidence that efforts to protect these and other marine species in one of the world's great barrier reef systems are working, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and the Belize Fisheries Department.
Too many turtles? Scientists may have solved the mystery of Raine Island
Why do so few turtle eggs hatch on Raine Island, the largest and most important nesting site for green turtles in the world?
Using Lake Michigan turtles to measure wetland pollution
Decades of unregulated industrial waste dumping in areas of the Great Lakes have created a host of environmental and wildlife problems.

Related Turtles Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...