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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY FOUNDATION
Doing Business As Name:San Diego State University Foundation
PD/PI:
  • Kevin Hovel
  • (619) 594-6322
  • khovel@mail.sdsu.edu
Award Date:08/01/2013
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 295,486
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 295,486
  • FY 2013=$295,486
Start Date:09/01/2013
End Date:08/31/2017
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: Global biodiversity and functioning of eelgrass ecosystems
Federal Award ID Number:1336905
DUNS ID:073371346
Program:BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY

Awardee Location

Street:5250 Campanile Drive
City:San Diego
State:CA
ZIP:92182-2190
County:San Diego
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:53

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:San Diego State University
Street:5500 Campanile Drive
City:San Diego
State:CA
ZIP:92182-4614
County:San Diego
Country:US
Cong. District:53

Abstract at Time of Award

Overview: This research will produce the second generation of a global collaborative research project, the Zostera Experimental Network (ZEN) to quantify the interacting influences of environmental forcing, biodiversity, and food-web perturbations on structure and functioning of eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds, the foundation of important but threatened coastal ecosystems worldwide. Partners at 40 sites in 14 countries will conduct parallel, standardized field sampling of producer and consumer biomass and diversity, and measure grazing and predation rates, to produce a global map of biodiversity, biomass distribution among trophic levels, and ecosystem processes in eelgrass habitats. Partners at a subset of core sites will conduct factorial experiments to characterize the interaction of nutrient loading, predator loss, and biogenic habitat structure (eelgrass density) in mediating producer growth and trophic processes in eelgrass. Finally, guided by the results from mechanistic experiments, the global field data will be used to test specific hypotheses about impacts of climate warming, nutrient loading, and declining biodiversity on eelgrass ecosystems via structural equation modeling, a uniquely powerful approach to dissecting complex interacting networks of causality. The proposed research will characterize in unprecedented detail how environmental forcing, biodiversity, and food-web processes interact to mediate functioning of a coastal ecosystem on a global scale. There are four general objectives: 1. Quantify linkages between eelgrass genetic diversity, growth, and provision of animal habitat 2. Quantify the influence of eelgrass habitat structure on consumer-prey interactions, secondary production, and trophic transfer 3. Identify mechanisms for the influence of grazer diversity on algal control 4. Develop a global map of grazing and predation intensity to assess the relative importance of bottom-up and top-down forcing in eelgrass beds Intellectual Merit: This program's integrated characterization of biodiversity, ecosystem state variables, and process rates across the globe is arguably unique in any marine system. It builds on promising results from the first generation of ZEN to allow for the first time a rigorous analysis of links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a natural system on a global scale. As part of this analysis, the proposed research will provide the most comprehensive analysis yet of the controversial question of the relative importance of bottom-up and top-down forcing in seagrass ecosystems, an issue of fundamental importance to management and conservation. Broader Impacts: Seagrasses and the many ecosystem services they provide are declining worldwide. This project's data on higher trophic levels and food-web interactions will provide a valuable and overdue complement to the many monitoring programs around the world that focus primarily on seagrasses and water quality, and will ultimately be made available to parameterize and test models of threatened seagrass ecosystems at a higher level of resolution ecological reality than previously possible. The success of the Zostera Experimental Network (ZEN) is evidenced by the continuation of all but one partner in the second generation (ZEN 2), and recruitment of nearly the same number of new partners to this global collaboration. This research will solidify and expand this network by more than doubling the number of participating sites, collaborating with parallel European Union and Japanese efforts, and integrating the world's largest and most successful seagrass restoration project at the Virginia Coast LTER site. ZEN 2 will also provide intensive training and international research experiences for at least 15 undergraduate interns, several graduate students, and a Postdoctoral Scholar, advance an innovative model of comparative-experimental research in global marine ecology, and produce a comprehensive database and analytical framework that will be invaluable to global efforts at conservation and management of threatened seagrass systems.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Fahimipour A., Kardish M., Lang J, Green J., Eisen J, and Stachowicz, J.J "Global-scale structure of the eelgrass microbiome" Applied and Environmental Microbiology, v.83, 2017, p..

Reynolds, P.L., J.J. Stachowicz, K.A. Hovel, C. Boström, K. Boyer, M. Cusson, J.S. Eklöf, F.G. Engel, A.H. Engelen, B.K. Eriksson, J. Fodrie, J.N. Griffin, C. Hereu, M. Hori, T. Hanley, M. Ivanov, P. Jorgensen, C. Kruschel, K.S. Lee, K. McGlathery, P.O. "Latitude, temperature and habitat complexity predict predation pressure in eelgrass across the Northern Hemisphere" Ecology, v.99, 2018, p.29.

Yeager, M.E. and K.A. Hovel "Structural complexity and fish body size interactively affect habitat optimality" Oecologia, v., 2017, p.. doi:10.1007/s00442-017-3932-2 


Project Outcomes Report

Disclaimer

This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

Eelgrass meadows are shallow, coastal ecosystems found throughout the northern hemisphere that provide important ecosystem services including primary production, nutrient cycling, habitat for fisheries species, and erosion control.  Considerable effort is aimed at conservation and restoration of these ecosystems to ensure the continued provision of these important ecosystem services. This project describes the second generation of a global collaborative research project, the Zostera Experimental Network (ZEN). In this project, we documented geographic variation in the biological and physical forces structuring these ecosystems in order to advance our understanding of how to approach conservation and restoration.  More generally, our collaborative network exemplifies a team approach to doing science where collaboration across international boundaries embraces geographic variation in important ecological processes, and recognizes that only by understanding the causes of this variation can we fully understand how ecosystems function.

 

Partners at 50 sites in 14 countries conducted parallel, standardized field sampling of the plants and animals at each site, as well as standardized measurement of important ecological processes such as herbivory and predation.  From this we produced global maps of biodiversity (ranging from microbes to fish), biomass distribution among trophic levels, and ecosystem processes, clearly describing for the first time how important structuring factors and processes such as predation, plant growth rates, and plant size vary with latitude and among ocean basins and coasts. Partners at a subset of sites conducted experiments to characterize the interaction of multiple factors identified in surveys as potentially contributing to eelgrass ecosystem functioning.  The replication of our sampling across 4 coasts in 2 ocean basins was a strength of the project, allowing us to disentangle the effects of latitude and geography from important mechanistic variables like ocean temperature or local biodiversity. 

 

We believe that ZEN has initiated a revolution in the field of seagrass ecology, making it more collaborative, more explicitly comparative, more comprehensive in its focus on microbes through top predators, and more focused on general ecological principles. Our program’s integrated characterization of biodiversity, ecosystem state variables, and process rates across the globe is arguably unique in any marine system. It builds on promising results from the first generation of ZEN to allow for the first time a rigorous analysis of links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a natural system on a global scale. Our data on invertebrates and fishes and the consequences of their interactions for seagrasses provides a valuable and overdue complement to the many monitoring programs around the world that focus primarily on seagrasses themselves and water quality, and are being made publically available. 

 

The success of ZEN is evidenced by the growing number of partners in this global collaboration, and the fact that the network is taking on a life of its own independent of the PIs.  Several new projects have been spawned as a result of ZEN work, many involving members outside the initial network and many of whom bring expertise from outside the world of marine ecology including genomics, microbiology, and disease dynamics to name a few.  ZEN 2 also provided intensive training and international research experiences for 18 undergraduate interns who participated in a class at their home university and in remote class experiences with students from the other universities before embarking on research experiences across the globe.  In addition, the project trained several graduate students at each university as well as a postdoctoral scholar.  The network built by this grant has already outlived the duration of the grant itself and we see it as continuing to advance an innovative model of comparative-experimental research in global marine ecology.


Last Modified: 01/30/2018
Modified by: Kevin Hovel

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