Identifying critical recruitment bottlenecks limiting seedling establishment in a degraded seagrass ecosystem /631/158/854 /704/158/1745 article
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© 2017 The Author(s). Identifying early life-stage transitions limiting seagrass recruitment could improve our ability to target demographic processes most responsive to management. Here we determine the magnitude of life-stage transitions along gradients in physical disturbance limiting seedling establishment for the marine angiosperm, Posidonia australis. Transition matrix models and sensitivity analyses were used to identify which transitions were critical for successful seedling establishment during the first year of seed recruitment and projection models were used to predict the most appropriate environments and seeding densities. Total survival probability of seedlings was low (0.001), however, transition probabilities between life-stages differed across the environmental gradients; seedling recruitment was affected by grazing and bioturbation prevailing during the first life-stage transition (1 month), and 4-6 months later during the third life-stage transition when establishing seedlings are physically removed by winter storms. Models projecting population growth from different starting seed densities showed that seeds could replace other more labour intensive and costly methods, such as transplanting adult shoots, if disturbances are moderated sufficiently and if large numbers of seed can be collected in sufficient quantity and delivered to restoration sites efficiently. These outcomes suggest that by improving management of early demographic processes, we could increase recruitment in restoration programs.
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