Comparison of the native Halophila stipulacea seagrass with the Lessepsian migrants

mesocosm halophila

Photo: Y. Zvieli


Duration:               6 months (January 2017 - July 2017) 

Funded by:            COST Action CA15121 

Project partners: 

                       Marine and Environmental Research (MER) Lab Ltd

                       Dead Sea-Arava Science Centre


Halophila stipulacea (Forsskål) Ascherson, 1867 is a tropical seagrass species, native to the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean. However, following the opening of the Suez Canal, this species soon became a putative Lessepian migrant, and has since become established in many parts of the Mediterranean Sea.

This project is a Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) supported by the COST Action - Advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas (MarCons, CA15121), which aims to compare native populations of H. stipulacea with Lessepsian migrants and shed some light on the potential impacts of the species in the Mediterranean ecosystems.

In this project, scientists from both Cyprus (MER Lab. Research team) and Israel (Dr Gidon Winters and research team from Dead Sea-Arava Science Centre) perform reciprocal visits in Cyprus and Israel to collect samples for morphological, physiological and genetic comparisons. In addition permanent monitoring systems will be set up in both regions, baseline data will be collected and compared to future observations to assess the expansion rates of both the native and invasive meadows in situ.

Moreover, H. stipulacea plants from Cyprus will be transported into seagrass-dedicated mesocosm (Picture) that is available at the Dead Sea-Arava Science Center to perform common stress garden experiments with both native and invasive populations.