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Seagrasses in the Age of Sea Turtle Conservation and Shark Overfishing

Frontiers in Marine Science. 2014;1 DOI 10.3389/fmars.2014.00028


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Frontiers in Marine Science

ISSN: 2296-7745 (Online)

Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.

LCC Subject Category: Science: Natural history (General): General. Including nature conservation, geographical distribution

Country of publisher: Switzerland

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, XML



Michael R Heithaus (Florida International University)

Michael R Heithaus (Florida International University)

Teresa eAlcoverro (Centre d'Estudis Avancat de Blanes)

Teresa eAlcoverro (Nature Conservation Foundation)

Rohan eArthur (Nature Conservation Foundation)

Derek A. Burkholder (Florida International University)

Kathryn A. Coates (Government of Bermuda)

Marjolijn J. A. Christianen (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Nachiket eKelkar (Nature Conservation Foundation)

Sarah A. Manuel (Government of Bermuda)

Aaron J. Wirsing (University of Washington)

W. Judson Kenworthy (W. Judson Kenworthy)

James W Fourqurean (Florida International University)

James W Fourqurean (Florida international University)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 14 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Efforts to conserve globally declining herbivorous green sea turtles have resulted in promising growth of some populations. These trends could significantly impact critical ecosystem services provided by seagrass meadows on which turtles feed. Expanding turtle populations could improve seagrass ecosystem health by removing seagrass biomass and preventing of the formation of sediment anoxia. However, overfishing of large sharks, the primary green turtle predators, could facilitate turtle populations growing beyond historical sizes and trigger detrimental ecosystem impacts mirroring those on land when top predators were extirpated. Experimental data from multiple ocean basins suggest that increasing turtle populations can negatively impact seagrasses, including triggering virtual ecosystem collapse. Impacts of large turtle populations on seagrasses are reduced in the presence of intact shark populations. Healthy populations of sharks and turtles, therefore, are likely vital to restoring or maintaining seagrass ecosystem structure, function, and their value in supporting fisheries and as a carbon sink.