Recolonization dynamics in a mixed seagrass meadow: The role of clonal versus sexual processes

B. Olesen*, N. Marbà, C. M. Duarte, R. S. Savela, M. D. Fortes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Recolonization dynamics from disturbance on a Philippine mixed seagrass meadow, containing species spanning more than 10-fold in rhizome elongation rates and reproductive effort, was examined by following the recovery of a 1,200 m2 gap over 2.5 yr. The objective was to assess the contribution of contrasting species to the recovery process and to evaluate the importance of sexual versus vegetative colonization. Large, slow-growing species, Thalassia hemprichii and Enhalus acoroides, that produce large, broadly-dispersed seeds dominated sexual colonization with a total of 2,643 and 210 seedlings, respectively, recruiting to the area. Despite very rapid turnover of sexual recruits, the high frequency of seedling establishment ensured successful development of new patches in areas devoid of vegetation, leading to a scattered and evenly distributed presence of vegetation inside the gap. The small seagrass species Cymodocea rotundata and Halodule uninervis, characterized by fast rhizome elongation rates but low reproductive output and limited seed dispersal, were the major contributors to the overall 450 m2 increase in vegetation cover through fast lateral extension (144 ± 6 cm yr -1) from meadow edge and surviving patches, forming a compact vegetation cover in one edge of the denuded area. We conclude that contrasting recruitment strategies in the mixed-species seagrass community examined have implications for colonization potential at different spatial scales. Fast clonal growth is only an efficient mechanism for colonization of disturbances within established meadows (small gaps), whereas the large species, which combined high reproductive output with high seed dispersal capacity, may act to accelerate the colonization process in large gaps or distant from established meadows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)770-780
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is part of the prediction of the resilience and recovery of disturbed coastal communities in the tropics (PREDICT) project (IC18-CT98-0292), funded by the INCO (International Cooperation with Developing Countries) programme of the European Community (CE). B. Olesen was supported by a fellowship from the Danish Natural Science Research Council and project grant no. 90940 from The Danish Council for Development Research, RUF. N. M. Cayabyab, J. Rengel, and I. P. Templo are thanked for efficient assistance in the field. We are grateful to A. Fornés for GIS data analyses.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • General Environmental Science


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