Seagrass and Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (VAS) Habitats off the Coast of Brazil: state of knowledge, conservation and main threats

  • Margareth S. Copertino Universidade Federal do Rio Grande; Laboratório Ecologia Vegetal Costeira, Instituto de Oceanografia
  • Joel C. Creed Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro; Departamento de Ecologia
  • Marianna O. Lanari Universidade Federal do Rio Grande; Programa de Pós-Gradução em Oceanografia Biológica
  • Karine Magalhães Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco; Departamento de Biologia
  • Kcrishna Barros Universidade Federal do Ceará; Instituto de Ciências do Mar
  • Paulo C. Lana Universidade Federal do Paraná; Centro de Estudos do Mar
  • Laura Sordo Universidade do Algarve; Centro de Ciências do Mar
  • Paulo A. Horta Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina; Departamento de Botânica

Abstract

Seagrass meadows are among the most threatened ecosystems on earth, raising concerns about the equilibrium of coastal ecosystems and the sustainability of local fisheries. The present review evaluated the current status of the research on seagrasses and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitats off the coast of Brazil in terms of plant responses to environmental conditions, changes in distribution and abundance, and the possible role of climate change and variability. Despite an increase in the number of studies, the communication of the results is still relatively limited and is mainly addressed to a national or regional public; thus, South American seagrasses are rarely included or cited in global reviews and models. The scarcity of large-scale and long-term studies allowing the detection of changes in the structure, abundance and composition of seagrass habitats and associated species still hinders the investigation of such communities with respect to the potential effects of climate change. Seagrass meadows and SAV occur all along the Brazilian coast, with species distribution and abundance being strongly influenced by regional oceanography, coastal water masses, river runoff and coastal geomorphology. Based on these geomorphological, hydrological and ecological features, we characterised the distribution of seagrass habitats and abundances within the major coastal compartments. The current conservation status of Brazilian seagrasses and SAV is critical. The unsustainable exploitation and occupation of coastal areas and the multifold anthropogenic footprints left during the last 100 years led to the loss and degradation of shoreline habitats potentially suitable for seagrass occupation. Knowledge of the prevailing patterns and processes governing seagrass structure and functioning along the Brazilian coast is necessary for the global discussion on climate change. Our review is a first and much-needed step toward a more integrated and inclusive approach to understanding the diversity of coastal plant formations along the Southwestern Atlantic coast as well as a regional alert the projected or predicted effects of global changes on the goods and services provided by regional seagrasses and SAV.

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Published
2016-01-01
How to Cite
Copertino, M., Creed, J., Lanari, M., Magalhães, K., Barros, K., Lana, P., Sordo, L., & Horta, P. (2016). Seagrass and Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (VAS) Habitats off the Coast of Brazil: state of knowledge, conservation and main threats . Brazilian Journal of Oceanography, 64(spe2), 53-80. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1679-875920161036064sp2
Section
Review Article