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Zostera marina

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Zostera marina is a species of seagrass known by the common names common eelgrass and seawrack. It is an aquatic plant native to marine environments on the coastlines of mostly northern sections of North America and Eurasia.

Distribution

This species is the most wide-ranging marine flowering plant in the Northern Hemisphere.<ref>den Hartog, C. (1970). The seagrasses of the world. Verh K Ned Ak Wet Adf North-Holland, Amsterdam 59: 1-275. Рin M̦ller, T. Zostera marina (Linnaeus 1753), Eelgrass (Angiospermophyta). Template:Webarchive Helsinki Commission: Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission.</ref> It lives in cooler ocean waters in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and in the warmer southern parts of its range it dies off during warmer seasons.<ref name=fna>Flora of North America</ref> It grows in the Arctic region and endures several months of ice cover per year.<ref name=borum>Borum J., et al., (Eds.) (2004.) European seagrasses: an introduction to monitoring and management. European Union: Monitoring & Managing of European Seagrasses.</ref> It is the only seagrass known from Iceland.<ref name=borum/> It can be found in bays, lagoons, estuaries, on beaches, and in other coastal habitat. The several ecotypes each have specific habitat requirements.Template:Citation needed It occurs in calmer waters in the sublittoral zone, where it is rarely exposed to air.<ref name=fna/> It anchors via rhizomes in sandy or muddy substrates and its leaves catch particulate debris in the water which then collects around the bases of the plants, building up the top layer of the seabed.<ref name=fna/>

Description and reproduction

This flowering plant is a rhizomatous herb which produces a long stem with hairlike green leaves that measure up to 1.2 cm wide and may reach over 1.0 m long. It is a perennial plant, but it may grow as an annual.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The rhizome grows horizontally through the substrate, anchoring via clusters of roots at nodes.<ref name=fna/> The plant is monoecious, with an individual bearing both male and female flowers in separate alternating clusters. The inflorescence is about 10 cm long.<ref name="Parnell 12">Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012. Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press Template:ISBN</ref> The fruit is a nutlet with a transparent coat containing the seed. The plant can also undergo vegetative reproduction, sprouting repeatedly from its rhizome and spreading into a meadow-like colony on the seabed known as a genet.<ref name=fonseca>Fonseca, M., et al. (2003). NOAA joint pilot project on eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) recovery in San Francisco Bay. Template:Webarchive NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.</ref> One meadow of cloned eelgrass was determined to be 3000 years old, genetically.<ref name=borum/> When undergoing sexual reproduction, the plant produces large quantities of seeds, at times numbering several thousand seeds per square meter of plants.<ref name=borum/> The plant disperses large distances when its stems break away and carry the fertile seeds to new areas, eventually dropping to the seabed.<ref name=borum/> The seagrass is a favorite food of several species of waterfowl, which may also distribute the seeds.<ref name=borum/>

Ecology

This Zostera grows in muddy and sandy shores only at and below spring tides.<ref name="Parnell 12"/> This plant is an important member of the coastal ecosystem in many areas because it helps to physically form the habitat and it plays a crucial role for many other species.<ref name=borum/><ref name=wyllie>Wyllie-Echeverria, S. and M. Fonseca. (2003). Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in San Francisco Bay, California from 1920 to the present. Template:Webarchive NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.</ref> For example, it provides a sheltered spawning ground for the Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii).<ref name=wyllie/> Juvenile Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) hide in eelgrass beds as they grow.<ref name=hanson>Hanson, A. R. (2004). Status and conservation of eelgrass (Zostera marina) in eastern Canada. Canadian Wildlife Service Technical Report Series #412.</ref> The blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) attaches to its leaves.<ref name=borum/> The green alga Entocladia perforans, an endophyte, depends on this eelgrass.<ref>UK Marine Special Areas of Conservation</ref> A great many animals use the plant for food, including the isopod Idotea chelipes and the purple sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus.<ref name=borum/> The Atlantic brant (Branta bernicula hrota) subsists almost entirely on the plant.<ref name=hanson/> When the eelgrass dies, detaches, and washes up on the beach, a whole new ecosystem is founded; many species of insects and other invertebrates begin to inhabit the dead plant, including the amphipod Talitrus saltator, the fly Fucellia tergina, and the beetles Stenus biguttatus, Paederus littoralis, and Coccinella septempunctata.<ref>Jedrzejczak, M. F. (2002). Stranded Zostera marina L. vs wrack fauna community interactions on a Baltic sandy beach (Hel, Poland): A short term pilot study, Part II. Oceanologia 44:3 367-87.</ref>

The bacterial species Granulosicoccus coccoides was first isolated from the leaves of the plant.<ref name=kuri>Kurilenko, V. V., et al. (2010). Granulosicoccus coccoides sp. nov., isolated from leaves of seagrass (Zostera marina). Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 60 972-76.</ref>

Threats

Populations of the plant have been damaged by a number of processes, especially increased turbidity in the water; like most other plants, eelgrass requires sunlight to grow.<ref name=wyllie/> One plant may adapt to light level by growing longer leaves to reach the sun in low-light areas; individuals in clear or shallow water may have leaves a few centimeters long, while individuals in deeper spots may have leaves over a meter long.<ref name=borum/> Human activities such as dredging and trawling damage eelgrass meadows; practices used in scallop and mussel harvesting in the Wadden Sea have cleared much eelgrass from the sea bottom there.<ref name=borum/> Aquaculture operations and coastal development destroy colonies.<ref name=borum/> Pollution from many sources, including riverside farms, sewage lines<ref name="Jones et al., 2018">Template:Cite journal</ref>, fish processing plants, and oil spills, damage eelgrass meadows.<ref name=hanson/> Conservation and restoration efforts of Zostera marina habitats<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> have been plenty since their rapid decline started several decades ago.

Invasive species have been shown to have a negative effect on eelgrass and associated ecosystems. In Nova Scotia, the invasive exotic green crab (Carcinus maenas) destroys eelgrass when it digs in the substrate for prey items,<ref name=hanson/> or by directly eating eelgrass seeds.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The decline of eelgrass in Antigonish Harbour has resulted in fewer Canada geese, which feed on the rhizome, and fewer common goldeneye, which eat invertebrates that live in eelgrass meadows.<ref name=hanson/>

The slime mold Labyrinthula zosterae caused a "wasting disease" of eelgrass resulting in large-scale losses in the 1930s; localized populations are still affected by the slime mold today.<ref name=borum/> During this time, populations of the eelgrass-eating Atlantic brant dropped.<ref name=hanson/> Remaining geese ate less-preferred food plants and algae, and hunters subsequently noticed that brant meat began to taste different.<ref name=hanson/> Even today, brants no longer migrate over the Nova Scotia area.<ref name=hanson/>

Genomics and evolutionary adaptations

The Zostera marina genome has been sequenced and analyzed by Olsen et al. in 2016 and the resulting article has been published in Nature.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The approximate genome sequence of Z. marina is 202.3 Mb and encodes approximately 20450 protein-coding genes (of which 86,6% are supported by trancriptome data). The assembled genome was found to consist of large numbers of repeat elements accounting for 63% of the assembled genome. The researchers revealed key adaptations at the molecular biological level that have occurred during evolution of Z. marina, an angiosperm that has adopted a marine lifestyle. Genome analysis revealed that Z. marina lost the entire repertoire of stomatal genes, genes involved in volatile compound biosynthesis and signaling (such as ethylene and terpenoids) as well as genes for ultraviolet protection and phytochromes used for far-red sensing. Besides these gene losses, also gene gain events have been described, mostly involving the adjustment to full salinity and ion homeostasis. Also macro-algae like cell wall components (low-methylated polyanionic pectins and sulfated galatans) have been described, unique for Z. marina compared to other angiosperms.

Human uses

People have long used this plant species as roof thatching in some areas.<ref name=borum/> It has been used as fertilizer and cattle fodder in Norway for centuries.<ref name=alm>Alm, T. (2003). On the uses of Zostera marina, mainly in Norway. Economic Botany 57:4 640-45.</ref> It has also been dried and used as stuffing for mattresses and furniture.<ref name=alm/>

References

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External links

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