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Posidonia as environmental archive: long-term ecology and conservation views

Funding body

The Leverhulme Trust - Early Career Leverhulme Fellowship

 

Project description

Posidonia oceanica, like all seagrasses, maintains a biodiverse ecosystem and is an important carbon sink. It is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, growing for millennia and accumulating sediments (mats) beneath the meadows. Although protected by the EU, it is declining quickly. Understanding its long-term dynamics may help habitat restoration, but a palaeoecological view is missing. The sediment accumulation turns Posidonia mat into a worthy studying millenary palaeo-archive. This proposal aims to explore the mat palaeoecological potential. Proxy analyses will deliver long-term data-series providing insights into processes affecting Posidonia and helping in the development of conservation strategies for its sustainability.

Pollen and other microfossils will be analysed in Mediterranean mats spanning the last millennia. These indicators provide valuable information at regional (terrestrial landscape) and local (coastal environment) scales on past biodiversity, deforestation, agropastoral practices, fire activity and soil erosion, as well as on hydro-climatic shifts and water eutrophication. As significant human impact from the past few millennia can be expected due to the flourishing of civilizations in the Mediterranean, P. australis mats (from Australia) will be studied as a baseline, as human impact could be considered negligible before European settlement (late 18th century). The expected results are promising, and this project will identify the effects of past changes to better manage this ecosystem for the future.

This fellowship project will be implemented at Brunel University London and in collaboration with CEAB-CSIC (Spain), Universidad de Santiago (Spain) and Edith Cowan University (Australia) for their expertise in non-biological proxies.