Marine Plant Ecology

Earlier this week Journal of Ecology published a new Virtual Issue on Freshwater Plant Ecology, which you can read in full here. In this post Rich Shefferson shares a selection of recent marine plant articles!

The featured papers fall into four key research themes: Population, Community, Ecosystem & Evolution.

I suppose I am not alone in admitting that I spent a good deal of my childhood dreaming of the ocean. Growing up in polluted, landlocked towns, I found dreams of the ocean to be dreams of beauty, inspiration, and freedom, let alone health and vitality. And that gives me great pleasure in introducing this mini-virtual issue of the Journal of Ecology, covering marine plant ecology.

Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera – Channel Islands National Park. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

When ecologists think of the oceans, I suspect that they think primarily of the animals. Ecology educators such as Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough have made marine wildlife a source of fascination to the general public, and not a few ecologists have found their calling through experiences with charismatic marine wildlife. But the oceans are home to much more than animals. The oceans rely on plants and photosynthetic microbes to capture carbon and make it useable by life. This means that plants are at the heart of the world’s ocean ecosystems. This fact makes it somewhat strange that plant ecology is an overwhelmingly terrestrial discipline.

I call Japan home now, and Japan has a national holiday every July that is devoted to the world’s oceans – known as Marine Day, Ocean Day, Sea Day or ‘Umi no hi’. In celebration of this holiday, little known in the rest of the world but quite important here, I wanted to put the spotlight on these marine plant ecology papers, covering population, community, ecosystem, and evolutionary disciplines.

We hope you enjoy reading these, and that they perhaps bring the pull of the oceans into your life!


The role of sexual reproduction in the maintenance of established Zostera marina meadows (Johnson, Orth & Moore, 2020)

The dynamics of kelp forests in the northeast Pacific Ocean and the relationship with environmental drivers (Pfister, Berry & Mumford, 2018)

Warming impacts on early life stages increase the vulnerability and delay the population recovery of a long-lived habitat-forming macroalga (Capdevila et al, 2019)

Eelgrass (Zostera marina), Quebec, Canada. Photo: Claude Nozères CC BY 4.0


Below-ground processes control the success of an invasive seaweed (Gribben et al, 2018)

Producer diversity enhances consumer stability in a benthic marine community (Ramus & Long, 2016)

Invasive seaweeds transform habitat structure and increase biodiversity of associated species (Dijkstra et al, 2017)

Graphical Abstract from article by Dijkstra et al.


The role of microphytobenthos in soft-sediment ecological networks and their contribution to the delivery of multiple ecosystem services (Hope, Paterson & Thrush, 2020)

Can ecosystem functioning be maintained despite climate-driven shifts in species composition? Insights from novel marine forests (Pessarrodona, Foggo & Smale, 2019)

Impacts of geography, taxonomy and functional group on inorganic carbon use patterns in marine macrophytes (Stepien, 2015)

Graphical Abstract from article by Pessarrodona, Foggo & Smale

Evolution and Evolutionary History

Rapid adaptation to controlling new microbial epibionts in the invaded range promotes invasiveness of an exotic seaweed (Saha et al, 2016)

Induced herbivore resistance in seaweeds: a meta-analysis (Toth and Pavia, 2007)

A six thousand-year record of climate and land-use change from Mediterranean seagrass mats (López-Merino et al, 2017)

A seagrass meadow. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Heather Dine. CC BY 2.0

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