Seagrass in a high CO2 environment

Seagrass meadows have been under assault for at least a century and are nearing a crisis with respect to global sustainability. We are using the newly built Climate Change Facility in partnership with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center with funding from the National Science Foundation to investigate the impacts of Ocean Acidification and Warming on native seagrass species. 

**this project has concluded, you can read our results in the following publication.
Richard C. Zimmerman, Victoria J. Hill, Malee Jinuntuya, Billur Celebi, David Ruble, Miranda Smith, Tiffany Cedeno, W. Mark Swingle. (2017).  Experimental impacts of climate warming and ocean carbonation on eelgrass Zostera marina. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 566:1-5. doi:10.3354/meps12051  FEATURE ARTICLE

The work proposed here seeks to explore the prolonged response of eelgrass to increased CO2(aq) within the context of a warming coastal ocean using a combination of manipulative experiments, physiological/biochemical investigations and mathematical modeling.  We hypothesize that rising CO2(aq) will increase the high temperature tolerance of plants by improving the Q10 response of photosynthesis relative to respiration, thereby leading to higher growth rates, improved survival of vegetative shoots at high temperature, and even flowering output and seed production,.  The research proposed here will allow us to investigate the key relationships between environmental parameters that have both negative (ocean warming) and positive (ocean carbonation) impacts on the light requirements and dynamics of carbon balance in these critically important marine angiosperms.

To understand the following

1. To what extent is the high temperature tolerance of eelgrass controlled by CO2(aq) availability? 

2. Does prolonged CO2(aq) enrichment increase seed production and viability?

3. Does CO2(aq) enrichment affect nutritional quality of seagrass tissue, particularly C:N ratios and protein content?

In the news


PhD student Billur Celebi gives a brief overview of her research at the 2014 Virginia Seagrant meeting.

Latest Results

After 4 months in CO2 treatments plants at ambient pH (low CO2) are smaller and have lower survival rates compared to those at pH 6.5 (high CO2)

Here you can see the higher survival and production of shoots in seagrass grown at pH 6.0 (high CO2) compared to only 50% survival of shoots that were transplanted into a high pH (low CO2) environment.

Partners and Funding Agencies

  • Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Our partner in this project
  • National Science Foundation. Funded this research.

Educational resources

  • Great website for teachers
  • Digital explorer, great resources, especially for UK teachers