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Botanica Marina

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Volume 61, Issue 3


Complex yet fauna-deficient seagrass ecosystems at risk in southern Myanmar

Benjamin L. JonesORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6058-9692 / Leanne C. Cullen-Unsworth
  • Corresponding author
  • Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, 33 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3BA, UK
  • Project Seagrass, 33 Park Place, Cardiff, UK.
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Robert Howard / Richard K.F. Unsworth
  • Project Seagrass, 33 Park Place, Cardiff, UK.
  • Seagrass Ecosystem Research Group, College of Science, Swansea University, Swansea, SA2 8PP, UK
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-05-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bot-2017-0082


Dependence on seafood across Southeast Asia is extensive. Myanmar is no exception, but the country’s provisioning marine ecosystems are threatened. Seagrass is one habitat that is frequently overlooked in management as an important fisheries resource, despite its nursery function. In Myanmar, research on seagrass habitats is particularly sparse, and as a result, our understanding of seagrass exploitation remains limited. In this study, we provide a baseline assessment of the seagrass-associated fish assemblages at four locations in the Myeik Archipelago in southern Myanmar using mono Baited Remote Underwater Video systems. Across the sites surveyed only 12 taxa of motile fauna were recorded. Relative to other regional and global studies, this figure is meagre. Our data adds to a growing literature suggesting that the marine ecosystems of Myanmar are in a worrying state. Despite the lack of recorded seagrass associated fauna, our study revealed minimal impacts to seagrass meadows from eutrophication or sedimentation, and the meadows included appeared to be healthy. The sites with the highest number of motile fauna were within Myanmar’s only National Marine Park offering some optimism for the effectiveness of protection, but further assessments are required to allow targeted management of Myanmar’s seagrass meadows.

Keywords: BRUV; fish assemblages; Myanmar; Myeik Archipelago; seagrass meadows


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About the article

Benjamin L. Jones

Benjamin L. Jones has a B.Sc. in Marine Biology and an M.Res. in Aquatic Ecology and Conservation from Swansea University. His M.Res. focused on the role of seagrasses as indicators of change in the British Isles where multiple characteristics were used to assess how seagrasses responded to varying degrees of anthropogenic stress. Following this Benjamin took up a position at the Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) at Cardiff University where his research focused on investigating drivers of seagrass decline across multiple scales throughout South East Asia, and additionally investigated the implications this has for small-scale fisheries. As a founding director of the marine conservation charity Project Seagrass, he works to improve knowledge and understanding of seagrass ecosystems while working to enhance public awareness of their importance and threats.

Leanne C. Cullen-Unsworth

Leanne C. Cullen-Unsworth has a B.Sc. in Marine Biology from Newcastle University, a M.Sc. in Marine Environmental Protection from Bangor University and a Ph.D. from Essex University with her thesis interrogating marine and coastal resources and livelihoods in Indonesia. After completing a CSIRO postdoctoral fellowship in Australia, Leanne returned to the UK to take up a Senior Research Fellowship within the Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) at Cardiff University. Leanne currently focuses on seagrass meadows as a model ecosystem for social-ecological system analysis. Leanne is interested in the threats posed to livelihoods and the economy, food security and lifestyles from a changing global environment. She is also interested in mitigation, adaptation and behavioural changes and in the development of socio-economically appropriate conservation and sustainable use practise. Leanne is now focusing some of her attention on seagrass habitats and their potential role in meeting our future food needs through the fisheries that they support.

Robert Howard

Robert Howard has a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biology and M.Sc. in Marine Science. His background is in protected area management and has previously worked for in Cambodia, Liberia and South Sudan training field rangers in law enforcement and biodiversity monitoring. Previously Robert was the Senior Ranger for Queensland Parks and Wildlife in Australia in the first jointly managed national parks in the state with indigenous Australians. Rob has also spent time in the Seychelles undertaking a marine conservation internship and obtaining his dive master certification. In his current role with FFI as Marine Programme Manager he provides support to FFI’s marine programme, including Myanmar’s first research divers undertaking coral reef surveys of Myeik Archipelago to assist the establishment of MPAs and Locally Managed Marine Areas.

Richard K.F. Unsworth

Richard K.F. Unsworth has a Ph.D. in seagrass ecosystems from the Essex University and an M.Sc. in Marine Environmental Protection from University of Wales. His expertise are in the ecological structuring processes of marine systems and the implications of these systems for society. This focuses primarily on the interrelationships between seagrass habitat and associated productive fauna (mainly fish). He is particularly interested in environmental changes on seagrass meadows functioning and the implications of this for global food security and other ecosystem services. Richard is based at Swansea University and a founding director of the marine conservation charity Project Seagrass. He has published over 45 ISI peer reviewed papers, led two special journal issues and co-edited a book about marine conservation.

Received: 2017-10-16

Accepted: 2018-04-11

Published Online: 2018-05-07

Published in Print: 2018-06-27

Citation Information: Botanica Marina, Volume 61, Issue 3, Pages 193–203, ISSN (Online) 1437-4323, ISSN (Print) 0006-8055, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bot-2017-0082.

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