Seagrasses in an era of ocean warming: a review

Hung Manh Nguyen, Peter J. Ralph, Lázaro Marín-Guirao, Mathieu Pernice, Gabriele Procaccini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Seagrasses are valuable sources of food and habitat for marine life and are one of Earth's most efficient carbon sinks. However, they are facing a global decline due to ocean warming and eutrophication. In the last decade, with the advent of new technology and molecular advances, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies focusing on the effects of ocean warming on seagrasses. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of the future of seagrasses in an era of ocean warming. We have gathered information from published studies to identify potential commonalities in the effects of warming and the responses of seagrasses across four distinct levels: molecular, biochemical/physiological, morphological/population, and ecosystem/planetary. To date, we know that although warming strongly affects seagrasses at all four levels, seagrass responses diverge amongst species, populations, and over depths. Furthermore, warming alters seagrass distribution causing massive die-offs in some seagrass populations, whilst also causing tropicalization and migration of temperate species. In this review, we evaluate the combined effects of ocean warming with other environmental stressors and emphasize the need for multiple-stressor studies to provide a deeper understanding of seagrass resilience. We conclude by discussing the most significant knowledge gaps and future directions for seagrass research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2009-2030
Number of pages22
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • climate change
  • conservation
  • multiple-stressor studies
  • ocean solution
  • ocean warming
  • restoration
  • seagrass die-off
  • seagrasses
  • tropicalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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