Research Output
Seagrass removal leads to rapid changes in fauna and loss of carbon.
  Seagrass habitats are important natural carbon sinks, with an average of ∼14 kg C m−2 buried in their sediments. The fate of this carbon following seagrass removal or damage has major environmental implications but is poorly understood. Using a removal experiment lasting 18 months at Gazi Bay, Kenya, we investigated the impacts
of seagrass loss on sediment topography, hydrodynamics, faunal community structure and carbon dynamics. Sediment pins were used to monitor surface elevation. The effects of seagrass removal on water velocity was investigated using Plaster of Paris dissolution. Sediment carbon concentration was measured at the surface and down to 50 cm. Rates of litter decay at three depths in harvested and control treatments were measured using litter bags. Drop samples, cores, and visual counts of faunal mounds and burrows were used to monitor the impact of seagrass removal on the epifaunal and infaunal communities. Whilst control plots showed sediment elevation, harvested plots were eroded (7.6 ± 0.4 and −15.8 ± 0.5mm yr−1 respectively, mean ± 95%CI). Carbon concentration in the surface sediments was significantly reduced with a mean carbon loss of 2.21Mg C ha−1 in the top 5 cm. Because sediment was lost from
harvested plots, with a mean difference in elevation of 3 cm, an additional carbon loss of up to 2.54Mg C ha−1 may have occurred over the 18 months. Seagrass removal had rapid and dramatic impacts on infauna and epifauna. There was a loss of diversity in harvested plots and a shift toward larger bodied, bioturbating species, with a significant increase in mounds and burrows. Buried seagrass litter decomposed significantly faster in the harvested compared with the control plots. Loss of seagrass therefore led to rapid changes in sediment dynamics and chemistry driven in part by significant alterations in the faunal community.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    15 March 2019

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Frontiers Media SA

  • DOI:


  • Cross Ref:


  • Library of Congress:

    QH Natural history

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    581 Specific topics in natural history

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Githaiga, M. N., Frouws, A. M., Kairo, J. G., & Huxham, M. (2019). Seagrass removal leads to rapid changes in fauna and loss of carbon. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7,



Macrofaunal communities, seagrass removal, surface elevation, carbon, bioturbation,

Monthly Views:

Available Documents
  • pdf

    Seagrass removal leads to rapid changes in fauna and loss of carbon


    Under the Frontiers Conditions for Website Use and the Frontiers General Conditions for Authors, authors of articles published in Frontiers journals retain copyright on their articles, except for any third-party images and other materials added by Frontiers, which are subject to copyright of their respective owners. Authors are therefore free to disseminate and re-publish their articles, subject to any requirements of third-party copyright owners and subject to the original publication being fully cited. Visitors may also download and forward articles subject to the citation requirements and subject to any fees Frontiers may charge for downloading licenses. The ability to copy, download, forward or otherwise distribute any materials is always subject to any copyright notices displayed. Copyright notices must be displayed prominently and may not be obliterated, deleted or hidden, totally or partially.

  • Downloadable citations