Seagrasses are declining at alarming rates due to climate change and human activities near the coasts, with the risk of experiencing abrupt and irreversible collapses. It is estimated that present rates of seagrass loss could result in the release of up to 299Tg carbon per year, eventually shifting from sinks to sources of carbon. What is lacking is a mechanistic understanding of how the potential collapse of seagrass meadows could have cascading effects on the dynamics of carbon sequestration in order to quantify the risk of coastal ecosystems shifting from carbon sinks to carbon sources.
The goal of this Foresight Workshop is therefore to bring together experts on tipping point dynamics with experts on seagrass ecology in order to connect theoretical insights of ecosystem tipping responses to stress with the dynamics of carbon sequestration and release in coastal Mediterranean seagrass ecosystems (Posidonia oceanica meadows). Ultimately, this workshop aims to help provide a methodological framework to conserve and manage seagrass ecosystems using tipping point science and eventually optimize blue carbon storage in the region.
The workshop will cover three key topics:
- Conceptually integrating a tipping point perspective in the ecosystem functioning of P. oceanica meadows across the Mediterranean basin
- Developing a modeling framework for studying these questions in seagrass ecosystems across the Mediterranean basin
- Designing experimental work to assess the risk of collapse in seagrass meadows and their fragility to shifting from sink to carbon sources at the Mediterranean scale
In order to address these topics, the workshop will be:
- Conducting a review/perspective of patterns of P. oceanica degradation and the links of seagrasses to blue carbon dynamics
- Developing models that will describe the spatial dynamics of growth and degradation of P. oceanica (inspired from terrestrial ecosystem models) and how to connect these models to ecosystem functioning in terms of carbon sequestration and release in the sea sediment
- Designing field experiments and protocols for the assessment of the risk of collapse in P. oceanica using ecosystem scale proxies that could reflect the system’s fragility to shifting from carbon sink to source
- A perspective paper
- A Project Proposal (in national, bilateral or European calls)
- Networking opportunities for student and researcher exchange
This workshop will provide insights on how to improve management practices of sensitive seagrass habitats, ensuring provision of key ecosystem services from seagrass meadows and contributing in mitigation of climate change.