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The loss of seagrass in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. II. Possible causes of seagrass decline

Cambridge, M.L., Chiffings, A.W., Brittan, C., Moore, L. and McComb, A.J. (1986) The loss of seagrass in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. II. Possible causes of seagrass decline. Aquatic Botany, 24 (3). pp. 269-285.

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This paper examines possible reasons for the extensive loss of seagrass in Cockburn Sound following industrial development. Transplanted seedlings survived poorly in Cockburn Sound compared with an adjoining embayment. Altered temperature, salinity, sedimentation and water movement do not explain the death of seagrass over wide areas, and there is no evidence for a role of pathogens. Oil refinery effluent reduced seagrass growth in aquaria at concentrations similar to those at the point of discharge, but could not account for the widespread deterioration observed in the field. Severe grazing by sea urchins was observed on meadows already under stress and does not appear to be a primary cause of decline; caged, transplanted seedlings also deteriorated.

Increased light attenuation by phytoplankton blooms may have affected the ddepth to which seagrasses could survive, but would have had little significant effect in shallow water; marked phytoplankton blooms were recorded only after extensive seagrass decline had taken place. Light reduction by enhanced growth of epiphytes and loose-lying blankets of filamentous algae in nutrient enriched waters is suggested as the most likely cause of decline. Heavy epiphyte fouling was consistently observed on seagrasses in deteriorating meadows, as well as on declining, transplanted seedlings, and is known to significantly impair photosynthesis in other systems. Extensive seagrass decline coincided with the discharge of effluents rich in plant nutrients.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 1986 Published by Elsevier B.V.
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