Endangered seagrasses focus of PhD research
Seagrasses play a vital role in the survival of many marine animals, which use their ‘meadows’ as habitat and feeding areas. But environmental pollution, such heavy metal, is contributing to the decline of seagrasses in some areas.
PhD candidate, Ms Nasim Shah Mohammadi from the UTS Climate Change Cluster (C3), is investigating Zostera mulleri, an endangered species of seagrass native to the southern half of Australia, and found mostly in the protected waters of NSW.
“My study aims to estimate the gene diversity and resilience of the remaining Z. mulleri so as to better understand the decline of seagrass meadows in Australia,” Ms Shah Mohammadi said.
All seagrasses, including Zostera muuleri, are crucial to biodiversity as they contribute organic matter to food chains and help maintain water quality by stabilising sediment.
Ms Shah Mohammadi was recently awarded a $1000 grant from the Linnean Society of NSW, which will help further her research into the molecular investigation of Z. mulleri.
“Only a few studies have been conducted on the molecular impact of heavy metals on seagrasses, so this study will be crucial to furthering our scientific understanding,” she said.
Worldwide, seagrasses are declining at an alarming rate of over 7 per cent per year. Unfortunately, Z.mulleri is in decline due to industrial, domestic and agricultural activities.
Heavy metals, such as copper, have destructive effects on the photosynthesis of plants.
Ms Shah Mohammadi says the sequencing data from her study can be used to design primers, which are short nucleic acid sequences that initiate DNA synthesis.
“This can impact research into molecular studies in areas such as genetic variation, new biomarker identification, differential gene expression and more,” she said.
She hopes the published results of her study will be a highly valuable data source for a broad range of future investigations into the conservation and management of Z. mulleri meadow.