With over 30,000 square km of seagrass in Indonesia, it's no surprise that these incredible but threatened nursery habitats are hugely important in supplying every day food for local people. Over 400 species of fish are present in Indonesian seagrass meadows but a range of diverse factors including poor water quality, coastal development and destructive fishing practices put their future at risk. Deserted seagrass meadows, which were once teaming with life, are now a common sight.
Training local communities to monitor seagrass is vital to inspire a sense of ownership. In the Wakatobi, we've helped train locals in SeagrassWatch where they will now monitor meadows in front of 3 important fishing villages to help better understand their condition and to also monitor the impact that new mitigation methods are having. Education matters!
In Wakatobi 68% of fishing activities take place in seagrass ecosystems and interviews with locals reveal that 407 species of fish are found to inhabit seagrass meadows in Indonesia. Seagrass meadows therefore play an important role in the food security of the area, providing a source of food everyday for the locals.
Halophila ovalis gets its name from its ovate leaves and it provides one of the main food source for dugongs. Dugongs feed almost exclusively on the H. ovalis although other species of seagrass have higher nutritional values, containing higher carbon, nitrogen and phopshorus concentrations. However H. ovalis is faster growing, meaning dugongs feed on the species for its high growth rate and large supply, rather than its nutritive qualities.
The banded snake eel (Myrichthys colubrinus) inhabits shallow sandy flats and seagrass beds, burrowing themselves into the substrate during the day, with just their heads sticking. They burrow themselves quickly by using movement from the tip of their tails and only surface from their burrows at night in order to hunt. Banded snake eels feed on small fish and other invertebrates found in the seagrass meadows, locating their prey mainly through their strong sense of smell.
Dascyllus aruanus, known commonly as the Whitetail dascyllus or Humbug damselfish. Small fish like D. aruanus hide amongst the coral and seagrass meadows to protect themselves from predators, especially at night. Coral colonies also benefit from sheltering fish as their waste and the water movement they create allows the coral to grow larger and faster.
Lionfish are native to the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. They are one of the top predators in the seagrass ecosystem, consuming up to 50 different fish species and using their outstretched pectoral fins to corner prey. Seagrass meadows have been proved to harbour the highest density of lionfish compared to other shallow habitats including mangroves and exposed reefs.
Protoreaster nodosus, commonly known as the chocolate chip seastar are found in the shallow warm waters of the indopacific region and appear conspicuous against the seagrass leaves, making them easy to identify. However the highest density of P. nodosus is found in the seagrass meadows, with as many as 50.8 individuals being identified per 100 metres squared and most of them being juveniles. This is because the seastar are microbial and algae feeders, organisms that live in the seagrass meadows.