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Intertidal wide strap seagrass

Short description

Intertidal seagrass meadows dominated by wide strap growth forms, mostly Zostera muelleri.

Disclaimer: Ecosystem type descriptions are based on biophysical attributes identified in Central Queensland through expert advice and supported by scientific literature. Not all ecosystem types are mapped based on current inventory, and many of the ecosystems described here may also occur in other parts of Queensland.

<em>Z. Muelleri,</em> Gladstone. Photo by TropWATER Seagrass Ecology Group

Classification categories

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Long description

Intertidal seagrass meadows dominated by wide (broad) strap growth forms, particularly Zostera muelleri subsp. capricorni*. These meadows can also include other seagrasses with wide strap growth forms, such as: Cymodocea rotundata, Cymodocea serrulata, Enhalus acoroides, Halodule uninervis and Thalassia hemprichii, together with other growth forms such as: Halophila spp., Syringodium isoetifolium and Thalassodendron ciliatum.

Seagrasses are not a taxonomically unified group, but rather an ecological group that arose through convergent evolution and includes several different families. They are all flowering plants that live underwater and need light to photosynthesise. They also produce seeds. They grow on muds, sands and fine gravels which may be mobile, leading to changes in seagrass composition and extent over time (see qualifiers - Period, Trend and Cover). Meadows may include other structural macrobiota, such as: encrusting algae, erect macrophyte algae, bryozoans, sponges and molluscs (e.g. bivalves, cockles, whelks, razor clam beds), together with mobile invertebrate fauna, such as: sea cucumbers, crabs (e.g. commercial sand crabs and other portunids) and polychaete worms.

*Revision of Zostera capricorni has resulted in classification to subspecies. In Queensland, Zostera capricorni has been revised to Zostera muelleri subsp. capricorni[8].

Special values

Seagrasses provide a wide range of services, including:

  • primary production, carbon fixation and nutrient removal
  • support numerous herbivore and detritivore-based food webs, including food for dugongs and green turtles (mostly H. uninervis and H. ovalis), and many fisheries species (e.g. prawns and fishes) and others (e.g. razor clam)
  • fisheries habitat (e.g. food, refuge and reproduction),
  • coastal protection, erosion control and sediment capture
  • tourism, recreation, education and research[11][17][9].

The fisheries value of seagrass habitat as nursery grounds for juvenile commercial fish and prawn species in Queensland is well documented[14][19]. Sea cucumbers may also be collected from seagrass meadows for commercial aquaculture. Not only do seagrass provide habitat for fish, but the proximity of seagrass meadows to other ecosystems (mangroves, coral reefs) increases fish abundance[6][12].

For additional special values, see type (15).

Diagnostic attributes

Inundation 'Intertidal – Lower low', 'Intertidal – Mid low', 'Intertidal – Upper low', 'Intertidal – Low undifferentiated', 'Intertidal – Lower medium', 'Intertidal – Upper-medium', 'Intertidal – Medium undifferentiated', 'Intertidal – High', 'Intertidal – Undifferentiated', 'Intertidal – High undifferentiated' although usually occurring below mean sea level

Structural macrobiota 'Seagrass – strap broad (wide)'


Seagrass ecosystems vary in Period and Trend (seasonally and from year to year). The species composition, extent and biomass of seagrass meadows can vary seasonally and between years. The extent and biomass of seagrass meadows along the Queensland east coast are typically maximal in late spring and summer, and minimal over winter[1][5][16].


Seagrass meadows grow throughout the world’s coastal waters, with large areas along Queensland’s coastline. Approximately 58 species of seagrass have been recorded across the globe with about 30 recorded in Australian waters and at least 15 in Queensland[13].

Most tropical and sub-tropical species are found in water less than 10 metres deep and wide strap seagrasses are typically found in shallow water and the intertidal area (coastal areas and within estuaries). Of the 13 species identified in north-eastern Queensland, all occurred in water depths less than 6 metres below mean sea level (MSL) and only four occurred in water more than 20 metres below MSL[10]. Three general depth zones of seagrass species composition for tropical waters have been observed: a shallow zone less than 6 metres deep with high species diversity, likely to include all species found in a region; a zone between 6 and 11 metres where the most commonly found seagrasses were the pioneering Halodule and Halophila species; and a zone deeper than 11 metres where only species of the genus Halophila were commonly found[3].

Seagrasses form dynamic communities of mixed species. Enhalus acoroides, T. hemprichii and T. ciliatum are considered persistent whereas Cymodocea spp. and S. isoetifolium are considered opportunistic, Z. muelleri and H. uninervis are considered colonising to opportunistic. Wide strap seagrasses are typically more enduring than early colonising species of Halophila spp., with Zostera spp. forming both transitory and enduring meadows. Seagrasses can regenerate from the 'seed bank' retained in situ within the sediment, or be dispersed by herbivorous fauna or on fragments of vegetation[18]. Enduring meadows may fluctuate but generally remain to some extent through seasons and years[9].

The following relates to distribution of this ecosystem type within the Central Queensland mapping area:

  • Seagrass mapping represents the maximum known extent of that ecosystem since 2000 and details concerning period and trend of each meadow are documented within the structural macrobiota attribute dataset.
  • Extensive seagrass meadows in Port Curtis are the only described large area of seagrass between Hervey Bay and Shoalwater Bay, and are therefore very important regionally[15][5].
  • Intertidal meadows of wide strap seagrass in the Central Queensland mapped area are typically dominated by Z. muelleri, but some areas are dominated by C. serrulata. Zostera spp. and Cymodocea spp. are typically more enduring than early colonising species of Halophila spp., with Zostera spp. forming both transitory and enduring meadows. Transitory meadows increase and decrease in extent and biomass seasonally, and can re-establish following complete loss through sexual reproduction. Zostera spp. is considered colonising and opportunistic seagrass, whereas Cymodocea spp. is considered opportunistic[9].
  • Aggregated Z. muelleri patches are the most extensive seagrass meadows in Port Curtis, together with relatively large areas of aggregated H. uninervis patches. Zostera muelleri dominated meadows on muddy sediments whereas H. uninervis dominated meadows on sandy sediments between Quoin and Facing Islands and along the exposed coasts of Boyne and Wild Cattle islands. Other seagrass meadows in Port Curtis (in decreasing extent based on dominant genera), include: continuous Z. muelleri patches, aggregated Halophila spp. patches, continuous H. uninervis cover, isolated Z. muelleri patches and isolated H. uninervis patches[5].
  • Spatial Inventory of seagrass in Hervey Bay, its tributaries/estuaries and the Great Sandy Strait was last updated in 2003 and seagrass meadows may have changed in extent since it was last mapped. Some estuarine seagrasses (excluding Baffle Creek) were mapped only once at a very broad scale 1984-88[10] and may either be absent or not represent current seagrass extent.
  • Thalassia hemprichii does not occur in Central Queensland.


Other relevant attributes include Water clarity, Energy magnitude and Energy source (wave) together with Sediment texture, Freshwater volume and Trace elements. Seagrasses need light to be able to photosynthesise and turbid water inhibits light penetration, thus the depth that light can penetrate is a major control. Severe storms (cyclones), and/or high rainfall, river discharge and the associated low Water clarity and high concentrations of nutrients and other potential contaminants, and sediment deposition leads to seagrass loss (see SeagrassWatch annual reports for inshore seagrass monitoring in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park[11][2]). Trace elements (nutrients N, P), herbicides and other contaminants are known to affect seagrass health and other structural macrobiota. This includes epiphytic algae and macroalgae which are indicators of high nutrients.

Water temperature is also relevant. Marine heatwaves can negatively impact seagrass meadows[4][11]. Zostera is particularly susceptible to temperature stress. The optimal temperature for primary production of Zostera is 24 degrees Celsius, with deficient primary production (i.e. energy loss) above 35 degrees Celsius, compared to 40 degrees Celsius for deficient primary production in H. uninervis and C. serrulata[4]. Intertidal seagrass meadows are more vulnerable to increases in water, but also air, temperature, including burn-off and tissue damage. Seagrass in deeper water are less exposed to, and therefore affected by, changes in air and sea temperature[7].

Mapping represents locations that seagrass has been recorded at some point in time, and therefore locations where seagrass may grow now or in the future providing environmental conditions are suitable (e.g. wave action, Water clarity, sediment stability, temperature and the presence of nutrients and other potential contaminants).

Additional information

Seagrass – Queensland Government

Case study: Hervey Bay seagrass and dugong – Queensland Government

Seagrass – Department of Environment, Science and Innovation

Saltmarshes, seagrasses and algae – Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Seagrass-Watch: guides and manuals

Seagrasses in Queensland (pamphlet)

Seagrasses – Australian Institute of Marine Science

Seagrass – A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef

Seagrass Restoration Network


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  2. ^ Campbell, SJ & McKenzie, LJ (2004), 'Flood related loss and recovery of intertidal seagrass meadows in southern Queensland, Australia', Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, vol. 60, no. 3, pp. 477-490, Elsevier.
  3. ^ Coles, R, Lee Long, W, Squire, B, Squire, L & Bibby, J (1987), 'Distribution of seagrasses and associated juvenile commercial penaeid prawns in north-eastern Queensland waters', Marine and Freshwater Research. [online], vol. 38, no. 1, p. 103. Available at: [Accessed 5 April 2019].
  4. ^ a b Collier, CJ, Ow, YX, Langlois, L, Uthicke, S, Johansson, CL, O'Brien, KR, Hrebien, V & Adams, MP (23 August 2017), 'Optimum Temperatures for Net Primary Productivity of Three Tropical Seagrass Species', Frontiers in Plant Science. [online], vol. 8. Available at: [Accessed 5 April 2019].
  5. ^ a b c Danaher, K, Rasheed, M & Thomas, R (2005), The intertidal wetlands of Port Curtis, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
  6. ^ Gilby, B, Olds, A, Connolly, R, Maxwell, P, Henderson, C & Schlacher, T (8 February 2018), 'Seagrass meadows shape fish assemblages across estuarine seascapes', Marine Ecology Progress Series. [online], vol. 588, pp. 179-189. Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2019].
  7. ^ Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) (2012), Great Barrier Reef Coastal Ecosystems Assessment Framework. [online], GBRMPA, Townsville. Available at:
  8. ^ Jacobs, S & Les, D (26 October 2009), 'New combinations in Zostera (Zosteraceae)', Telopea. [online], vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 419-423. Available at: [Accessed 25 March 2019].
  9. ^ a b c Kilminster, K, McMahon, K, Waycott, M, Kendrick, GA, Scanes, P, McKenzie, L, O'Brien, KR, Lyons, M, Ferguson, A & Maxwell, P (2005), 'Unravelling complexity in seagrass systems for management: Australia as a microcosm', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 534, pp. 97-109, Elsevier.
  10. ^ a b Lee Long, W, Mellors, J & Coles, R (1993), 'Seagrasses between Cape York and Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia', Marine and Freshwater Research. [online], vol. 44, no. 1, p. 19. Available at: [Accessed 5 April 2019].
  11. ^ a b c McKenzie, LJ, Collier, CJ, Langlois, LA, Yoshida, RL, Smith, N & Waycott, M (2018), Marine Monitoring Program: Annual Report for inshore seagrass monitoring 2016-2017. Report for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. [online], p. 248pp., Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville. Available at:
  12. ^ Olds, AD, Connolly, RM, Pitt, KA & Maxwell, PS (2012), 'Primacy of seascape connectivity effects in structuring coral reef fish assemblages', Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol. 462, pp. 191-203, Inter-Research, Nordbuente 23 Oldendorf/Luhe 21385 Germany.
  13. ^ Queensland Government, Seagrasses in Queensland. [online], Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. Available at:
  14. ^ Rasheed, MA, Lee Long, WJ, McKenzie, LJ, Roder, CA, Roelofs, AJ & Coles, RG (1996), Port of Karumba: seagrass monitoring baseline surveys, Dry-season (Oct.) 1994 - Wet-season (Mar.) 1995, Ports Corp. of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld..
  15. ^ Rasheed, MA, Thomas, R, Roelofs, AJ, Neil, KM & Kerville, SP (2003), Port Curtis and Rodds Bay Seagrass andBenthic Macro-Invertebrate Community Baseline Survey.
  16. ^ Sheaves, M (2005), 'Nature and consequences of biological connectivity in mangrove systems', Marine Ecology Progress Series. [online], vol. 302, pp. 293-305. Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2019].
  17. ^ Sheppard, JK, Preen, AR, Marsh, H, Lawler, IR, Whiting, SD & Jones, RE (2006), 'Movement heterogeneity of dugongs, Dugong dugon(Müller), over large spatial scales', Journal of experimental marine biology and ecology, vol. 334, no. 1, pp. 64-83, Elsevier.
  18. ^ Tol, SJ, Jarvis, JC, York, PH, Grech, A, Congdon, BC & Coles, RG (December 2017), 'Long distance biotic dispersal of tropical seagrass seeds by marine mega-herbivores', Scientific Reports. [online], vol. 7, no. 1, p. 4458. Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2019].
  19. ^ Watson, R, Coles, R & Lee Long, W (1993), 'Simulation estimates of annual yield and landed value for commercial penaeid prawns from a tropical seagrass habitat, Northern Queensland, Australia', Marine and Freshwater Research. [online], vol. 44, no. 1, p. 211. Available at: [Accessed 8 April 2019].

Last updated: 16 July 2019

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2019) Intertidal wide strap seagrass, WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation