2024 World Seagrass Conference & 15th International Seagrass Biology Workshop

Workshops List

WS01 – Hypervolume modelling: a multivariate tool for seagrass ecosystem assessments

Max #Participants: no limit

Main-conveners :
W. Ryan James (Florida International University, USA) – wjames@fiu.edu

Co-conveners: Benjamin Jones (Project Seagrass), Rolando Santos (Florida International University), Jennifer Rehage (Florida International University), Marianna Coppola (Florida International University), Gina Badlowski (Florida International University), Jonathan Rodemann (Florida International University) 

Seagrass ecosystem structure and function are complex due to ecological and physicochemical processes occurring across multiple spatiotemporal scales. Due to advances in computing and statistical programming, new multivariate tools incorporating multi-scalar ecosystem responses are becoming increasingly popular to characterize ecosystem condition and stability. One such technique is hypervolume modelling, which is based on Hutchinson’s n-dimensional hypervolume concept that describes the ecological requirements for an individual, species, or population to persist in a location. Due to the geometrical nature of hypervolumes and the flexibility of defining variables as axes, the hypervolume concept has been adapted to other ecological questions and processes above the species level (e.g., communities, habitats). The diverse use of hypervolumes include quantifying the state, stability, and resilience of ecosystems following disturbance and restoration, as well as how functional diversity, life-history strategies, and habitat filtering of community assemblages vary across environmental and disturbance gradients. During the workshop, we will present multiple case studies using hypervolumes in seagrass ecosystems. These case studies will be followed by a walkthrough of the data and R code used to conduct the hypervolume analyses. R scripts and markdown/quarto files will be provided to encourage participants to conduct hypervolume analysis on their own data and promote comparative cross system studies.

WS02 – Seagrass futures

Max #Participants: 40

Lina Mtwana Nordlund (Uppsala University, Sweden) – lina.mtwana.nordlund@geo.uu.se

Co-conveners: Jonathan Lefcheck (University of Maryland)

Seagrass ecosystems are in trouble, and with limited knowledge of accelerating cumulative effects, we need to start thinking out-of-the-box . In this workshop, we will apply a so-called “futures thinking” approach.  It will be a creative and exploratory process that will engage all participants. The aim is to imagine the many alternative futures of seagrass, rather than to predict the future of seagrass. This process will draw on proposed future threats, but also inspire based on past successes. The two themes during the workshop are: megatrends, and “what-if questions” that will support our future exploration. Ultimately, we seek to envision multiple pathways and innovative solutions towards effective seagrass conservation and restoration. The workshop will be preceded by a preparatory online survey.

WS03 – Global, Regional and Local Constraints and Opportunities for Seagrass Management

Max #Participants: no limit

Carol Conacher (frc environmental, Australia) – carolconacher@frcenv.com.au

Co-conveners: Michael Van Kuelen (Murdoch University) 

In 2022, at the UN biodiversity conference, the 30X30 target was established: protection of at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and water by 2030.  Globally, are we achieving this, and what are the challenges and pitfalls?  

Seagrasses are well recognised as productive ecosystems, vital for fisheries, as habitat for endangered species, coastal protection, and carbon sequestration.  Never the less it is estimated that since the late 19th century, almost 30% of the known area of seagrass has been lost1.  How are seagrass species and ecosystems protected on a global, regional, and local level, and is this done with integrity?  

What does the 30×30 target mean for seagrass ecosystems and will it be sufficient to ensure their conservation? Is inclusion within a marine national park sufficient to protect inshore coastal areas? What role does management plan? How does the management of terrestrial national parks differ to marine ones, and what are the implications for maintenance of seagrass area and biodiversity?  Without catchment management will the 30×30 target achieve meaningful outcomes?   

With these question in mind, on a local scale, what are the challenges and constraints in protecting local seagrass beds?  Is restoration and catchment management supported by regulators, or are they stifled by ‘red-tape’?  Do national or local governments actively support protection and restoration? What are the success stories, and lessons from the trenches when it comes to achieving positive out-comes for seagrass protection and management?

The workshop will aim to provide participants with examples and tools for effective engagement to improve conservation outcomes for seagrass.

WS04 – Stakeholder engagement: Broaden the impact of your research

Max #Participants: no limit

Annie Carew (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, USA) – acarew@umces.edu

Co-conveners: Alexandra Fries (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), Katie May Laumann (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

As the consequences of environmental change are increasingly felt globally, engaging stakeholders in science is becoming more important. Inviting stakeholders into scientific discourse broadens the impact of science, leads to a more holistic understanding of the natural world, fosters public environmental stewardship, increases support of science and science-based management, and unites and empowers communities. It also allows stakeholders the opportunity to participate in scientific endeavors, providing researchers with volunteers when needed. This workshop will help participants think beyond the specifics of their research and focus on the many people who are affected by the implications of that research. Through activities such as stakeholder mapping and role-playing, participants will learn to identify who to engage, how to engage them, and the value that engaging stakeholders can add to research. This will help participants better work and communicate WITH stakeholders rather than just speaking TO them.

WS05 – Science communication: Communicate better and expand your reach

Max #Participants: no limit
Alexandra Fries (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, USA) – afries@umces.edu
Co-conveners: May Laumann (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), Annie Carew (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), William Dennison (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)
Science, no matter how excellent, is most impactful when communicated effectively. Communicating science to the general public- all of whom are stakeholders facing the consequences of habitat loss, declining biodiversity, and climate change events- has never been more important. Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals are the currency of science, but posters, presentations, and web-based platforms are essential for communicating current research and new insights to a variety of audiences (including managers, stakeholder groups, and the general public). This course provides participants with a science communication toolbox for effectively sharing their research beyond the scientific community.
Participants will be introduced to the theory and principles of effective science communication and strategies to better reach audiences beyond the scientific community. They will improve their skills in the development of effective, accessible, and eye-catching conceptual diagrams, learn about and practice developing science communication products, develop messaging about their work accessible to non-scientific audiences, and, ultimately, become more effective communicators.

WS06 – Avoiding Parachute Science: Working with, rather than alongside, communities

Max #Participants: no limit
May Laumann (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, USA) – klaumann@umces.edu

Co-conveners: Alexandra Fries (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), Jonathan Lefcheck (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), Annie Carew (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

Ensuring that science includes and benefits people in the areas where we work rather than taking from them is a challenge that we all must consider, and that is increasingly recognized in the scientific community. Research funders are increasing the emphasis on the ability of projects they support to demonstrate societal benefits and to consider under-served and under-represented communities, while stakeholders are wary of “parachute-science”. Incorporating community-identified priorities into research or co-creating projects with the communities where research takes place can help address this challenge, ensuring that your work positively impacts the ecosystem you study and includes the people who depend upon them.
Several demonstrated methods of effectively incorporating community values, including those of underserved communities, will be taught in this workshop. From identifying goals shared by researchers and communities, to meaningfully engaging with local stakeholders, to assessing metrics that demonstrate the impact of ecological research on local communities, this workshop will provide diverse tools to ensure research is collaborative and has measurable, holistic benefits. Based on several examples of projects co-created with researchers and communities worldwide, workshop conveners will demonstrate how SAV researchers can work with, rather than alongside, local communities. We will present on globally recognized standards for community engagement, explore how to bridge cultural differences, and identify solutions to challenges that you may face along the way.

WS07 – A new global seagrass map through community led remote sensing and field validation

Max #Participants: no limit
Chris Roelfsema (University of Queensland, Australia) – c.roelfsema@uq.edu.au

Co-conveners: Emmett Duffy (Smithsonian Institute), Rowana Walton (UNEP-WCMC), Mitchell Lyons (University of Queensland), Pramaditya Wicaksono (Universitas Gadjah Mada), Dimosthenis Traganos (DLR), Steve Schill (The Nature Conservancy), Len Mckenzie (Seagrasswatch)

The world’s seagrass meadows are central to a healthy planet with vital ecological, economical and cultural values.  Sadly, seagrass meadows are declining in many regions globally. However, selected areas show human intervention and reducing stressors can turn this around toward substantial recovery of seagrasses.
Achieving that recovery requires knowing where seagrasses are, which is hampered by scarce and contradictory information. Current global maps are not up-to-date and therefore don’t provide reliable information on seagrass seasonal distribution changes or vulnerability to current and future human-mediated impacts.
We propose a new global mapping effort, working with in-country partners, across multiple sectors, to co-develop a scientifically robust and repeatable mapping and monitoring approach for the world’s seagrasses. This initiative would leverage decades of observations, research, and new artificial intelligence techniques towards a regularly updatable, open-source map of seagrass distribution that serves the needs for seagrass information of local communities to nations worldwide. The seagrass map, knowledge and community network created by this new global mapping effort will advance seagrass management, conservation, and restoration, leading to multiple economic, societal and environmental benefits.
The aim of this workshop is to reach out to students, scientists, managers, and policy makers to 1) identify key local needs for seagrass extent maps, 2) develop collaborations and pathways for partners to contribute verification data, and 3) to share national to regional scale mapping approaches.

WS08 – Consolidation and sharing of seagrass trait data

Carmen B. de los Santos (Centre of Marine Sciences of Algarve, Portugal) – cbsantos@ualg.pt

Co-conveners: Camilla Gustafsson (University of Helsinki), Agustín Moreira-Saporiti (Marine Biological Laboratory)

SeagrassTraitDB is a global database of curated seagrass traits created by researchers from the Center of Marine Sciences of Algarve (CCMAR) with the support of BioData.pt (Portuguese distributed infrastructure for biological data and the Portuguese ELIXIR node), and it is part of the European Open Science Cloud services catalogue. It has been created to integrate seagrass trait data from around the world in one consistent format, based on data sets contributed by seagrass scientists.
The workshop has three objectives: 1) to introduce the database to the seagrass scientific community, 2) to share seagrass trait data between participants, and 3) to formulate a list of key questions on seagrass ecology in the Anthropocene that would benefit from a trait-based ecological approach and the use of the SeagrassTraitDB, identifying key traits for each question. The list of key questions will be integrated in a manuscript to be submitted as a perspective article to an ecological journal, with workshop participants as co-authors.

WS09 – Advancements in seagrass restoration for climate resilience in the western Indian ocean and Africa

Max #Participants: no limit
Jacqueline Uku (Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association – WIOMSA, juku@kmfri.go.ke) Beva Grilante (Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines, Madagascar, bevgrilante@gmail.com)
Tanjona Rovanirina Manganiainarivony (Institu Halieutique et des sciences Marine, Madagascar, tanjona219@gmaiil.com)
Co-conveners: Salomao Bandeira (Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique,  salomao.bandeira4@gmail.com), Nirinarisoa Ranivoarivelo Lantoasinoro (Institu Halieutique et des sciences Marine, Madagascar), Fidèle Rakotonjanahary (Institu Halieutique et des sciences Marine, Madagascar), Helga Berjulie Ravelohasina (Institu Halieutique et des sciences Marine, Madagascar)
Seagrasses meadows are often referred to as the “blue forest”, offering numerous critical ecosystem services and adaptations. They possess the ability for carbon sequestration, shoreline protection, and biodiversity enhancement, of which play a pivotal role in mitigating the various adverse impacts of climate change. By implementing nature-based solutions such as seagrass restoration and developing best practises and techniques, we can facilitate the recovery of fisheries, enhance socio-economic conditions within coastal communities and support livelihoods dependent on healthy seagrasses. In line with these goals, we propose a workshop focused on the theme of “Strides in seagrass ecological restoration and management”. This workshop/parallel session aims to discuss existing seagrass restoration techniques for a range of seagrass species and habitats, explore metrics for evaluating restoration success, blue carbon, and benefits for associated faunal diversity. Included in this workshop, will be aspects of how carbon credits can promote seagrass conservation, biodiversity and community benefits. Furthermore, discussions will emphasise processes to engage a broader range of stakeholders, foster community collaboration, address livelihood-related concerns, and increase support for seagrass conservation initiatives. The workshop will focus on work from the mainland and the Small Island States of the Western Indian Ocean, specifically emphasising in the Africa context, where seagrass restoration initiatives have started giving tangible results.

WS10 – Ideas for scaling up seagrass restoration

Max #Participants: no limit

Will O’Brien, Ulysses

Co-conveners: John Statton, Immersion Group and University of Western Australia

Seagrass ecosystems, pivotal in maintaining global marine health, face unprecedented declines. To reverse this, current restoration practices, confined to hectare-scale projects, must ambitiously expand to cover kilometers. This workshop will explore innovative strategies to significantly increase the scale of global seagrass restoration. Achieving pre-industrial levels of seagrass coverage necessitates a paradigm shift in our approach, moving from small-scale, localized efforts to extensive, kilometer-scale restorations. This workshop will address several critical questions to facilitate this transition:

  • Improving Germination Rates: Investigating advanced biological and technological methods to enhance seed germination success.
  • Expanding Restoration Coverage: Strategies for covering larger areas effectively and efficiently.
  • Optimizing Site Selection: Advanced techniques for better identification and assessment of potential restoration sites.
  • Enhancing Seed Collection: Innovating collection methods for higher efficiency and minimal ecological impact.
    Furthermore, the workshop will delve into potential pathways to achieve these objectives, focusing on:
  • Emerging Technologies: Leveraging remote sensing, robotics, machine learning, and AI to revolutionize seagrass restoration.
  • Innovative Methods: Exploring new methods such as seed injection and advanced seed treatments, including coatings and microorganism supplements.
  • Novel Financing Models: Discussing the potential of blue carbon credits and the nascent field of biodiversity credits as financial mechanisms to support large-scale restoration efforts.