News & AnalysisMarine Ecology

Seagrasses Partner With Clams to Stay Healthy

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Science  15 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6087, pp. 1368-1369
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6087.1368

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Seagrass beds, like coral reefs, form a highly productive and diverse ecosystem, acting as the nursery for many kinds of fish as well as a home to sea turtles, manatees, birds, and a host of other sea creatures. Seagrasses help cycle nutrients, and experts estimate they provide $1.9 trillion in ecosystem services per year worldwide. At the heart of seagrasses' success—and the secret to efforts to restore the increasingly threatened ecosystem—may be a small clam. On page 1432 of this week's issue of Science, marine ecologists describe a three-way partnership—between seagrasses, lucinid clams, and bacteria living in the clams—that likely keeps toxic sediments from building up and killing the seagrass. An appreciation of this partnership could lead to better success in seagrass restoration, the researchers suggest.