Anti-herbivory resistance against multiple herbivores in seagrasses

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
There is increasing evidence of the importance of herbivory in seagrass communities, but the factors that regulate seagrass–herbivore interactions remain largely unknown. For instance, recent studies demonstrated that herbivores can consume more than half of the annual above ground primary production in some meadows, which constitutes a significant ecological impact that might select for anti-herbivory defences. Many terrestrial plants, freshwater macrophytes, and marine algae deter herbivores using chemical compounds that reduce their quality as food, yet their incidence and role on seagrasses have received little attention. Seagrass meadows provide important ecosystem services, which is why a comprehensive understanding on their ecology is required for tailored conservation efforts of these valuable systems. The goal of this project is to explore if or when different seagrass species invest in generalised defences that are effective against a broad range of herbivores, as is expected for highly apparent plants according to the plant apparency model. To this aim, field works and feeding experiments will be conducted with two seagrass species and different types of seagrass consumers.
We seek candidates with a strong interest and preferably background in experimental marine ecology. Candidates should demonstrate good English language skills and work well in a collaborative research environment. Experimental works will be carried out at the Ramalhete field station of the Centro de Ciências do Mar (CCMar), with the more relevant species found in the Ria Formosa lagoon.
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Reference Number: RP-47991