Trait-based approach to seagrass ecosystemsInternal


Activity Overview

Type: Foresight Workshop
Start Date: October 3, 2018
End Date: October 5, 2018
Venue: Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples, Italy
Contact: Dr. Gabriele Procaccini
E-mail: gpro [at]
Funding Call: EuroMarine 2017 call for FWS and WG proposals
Total Budget: €7,500
Funds Granted: €7,500

Manager(s): Gabriele Procaccini

The rationale of the workshop is to understand how functional traits scale upwards to crucial ecosystem functions and response to climate changes. We will take advantage of the knowledge acquired by existing and mostly connected seagrass research community, but we will also invite scientists already studying functional traits in other plant systems. Hence, the workshop will bring together experts and key players from different disciplines in marine seagrass research (eco-physiology, microbiology, transcriptomics, proteomics, biogeochemistry, physics, ecology and more), as well as researchers involved in the trait-based approach in terrestrial plants. The workshop emerges as the natural next step of a previous COST action (ES0906 Seagrass productivity: from genes to ecosystem management) in which the first comprehensive picture of the functioning of the P. oceanica ecosystem has been provided by linking a wide range of organization levels (from genes to physiology and from plant to ecosystem: Mazzuca et al., 2013; Procaccini et al., 2017; Santos et al., in prep).


TRAITGRASS aims to provide a state of art of the potential key traits for understanding the complexity, structure and dynamics of seagrass ecosystems, pinpointing future directions for this novel and integrative seagrass research field. A better understanding of seagrass ecosystems functioning will provide fundamental information and tools for knowledge-based management and restoration strategies.

The complete data set obtained during the COST action will be re-discussed under the trait-based perspective to identify gaps that need to be filled and to evaluate the suitability of the approach to seagrass ecosystems. Existing and ongoing projects in which individual participant are involved will be discussed in order to find possible convergent strategies and methodologies to develop the trait based approach in seagrasses. The workshop will be promoted and reported on social media (i.e. SZN facebook site, twitter, and other).

Specific aims are:

  • Identifying of gaps, needs and methods to develop and implement trait-based approaches to seagrass ecosystems.
  • Building of a research core group to adopt and apply these mechanistic approaches to seagrasses. Enforcing and enhancing collaborations among seagrass researchers and fostering collaborations with researchers already working on trait-based approaches in other plant systems (terrestrial ecosystems)
  • Discussing and defining a research agenda for submission of a proposal for the H2020 call: “Societal challenge 5: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials” (SC5) topic SC5-6-2014: Biodiversity and ecosystem services: drivers of change and causalities”
  • Discussing and preparing a conceptual review paper on trait based seagrass ecology:

Expected outcomes

To identify the frame work and tool-box needed to facilitate trait based seagrass ecology. Both facilitating a better understanding marine ecosystems for healthy oceans under global / climate change.

Expected impact

The outcomes will facilitate and ignite a paradigm shift in costal marine ecology providing a more holistic picture of how seagrass ecosystems will thrive in future oceans under global / climate change.


The Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (SZN) in Napoli hosted a 2.5 day workshop that was attended by 25 scientists seeking to understand how functional traits scale upwards to crucial ecosystem functions and response to climate changes in seagrasses. The workshop took advantage of the presence of experienced researchers working on higher plants traits and the existence of a highly connected seagrass research community. The experts and key players represented a number of different disciplines in marine seagrass research, including ecology, eco‐physiology, molecular ecology, transcriptomics and biogeochemistry. Rounding off the scientific backgrounds were researchers involved in the trait‐based approach in terrestrial plants.

The workshop endeavoured to identify:

  1. Potential seagrass-specific traits
  2. The relationship between plant trait and plant fitness
  3. The relationship between plant traits and ecosystem functions and services

A list of traits was identified and, for each one, a fitness function and a potential role in providing ecosystem service, was defined.


The discussions led to the outline for a conceptual paper on the trait-based approach to seagrasses explored in the workshop, which is being prepared by certain attendees.

The group also decided to develop an ITN proposal aimed at providing seagrass-based solutions to global challenges such as warming, sea level rise, eutrophication, over exploitation and coastal protection.