Rhizome starch as indicator for temperate seagrass winter survival

Laura L. Govers*, Wouter Suykerbuyk, Jacqueline H.T. Hoppenreijs, Kris Giesen, Tjeerd J. Bouma, Marieke M. Van Katwijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Key-ecosystems such as seagrass beds are disappearing on a global scale. In order to counter-act local loss of seagrass beds, seagrass restoration projects have been carried out with varying degrees of success. As seagrass biomass peaks in summer, most restoration projects are monitored during this period, while wintering processes are largely ignored. We here attempted to elucidate some important bottlenecks for wintering survival in temperate areas of the intertidal model species Zostera noltii, using a three-year transplant-monitoring dataset and a field experiment. We found that next year's transplant success could not be predicted based on the preceding year's growth success, emphasizing the winter as a crucial period for survival of seagrass transplants. In addition, transplant success was neither determined by abiotic site characteristics. Low autumn rhizome starch concentrations in unsuccessful transplants, compared to successful transplants and natural beds, hinted at the importance of starch for winter survival. Hence, we tested the importance of starch, accumulated in autumn, versus the importance of the presence of sparse aboveground photosynthetic winter biomass for winter survival of seagrass transplants in a field experiment. We clipped the overwintering-leaves of three natural beds that naturally varied in their autumn rhizome starch concentrations. Decreased leaf densities in winter did not affect seagrass biomass in June, nor did this treatment affect rhizome starch concentration in June. Autumn rhizome starch reserves did however provide a good indication of next year's growth success, confirming the importance of starch reserves for winter survival. We thus conclude that autumn rhizome starch can be a good predictor of next year's growth success, whereas the preceding growing season shoot density and the presence of leaves during the winter were bad indicators of next year's growth success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-60
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • Carbohydrate
  • Carbon balance
  • Reserve
  • Seasonality
  • Transplant
  • Zostera noltei
  • Zostera noltii


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