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How to keep seagrasses as happy as a clam

In a severe hot spell, breaking plant-mollusk partnerships speeds degradation

12:00pm, March 10, 2016

TOUGHING IT OUT  Researchers investigate what lets certain patches of seagrasses survive hot spells and drying winds when receding tides leave them as a flat green carpet on the Banc d’Arguin mudflats off the West Africa coast.

Clamming up could help underwater seagrass meadows better withstand drought, heat waves and climate change.

Breakdown of a symbiotic bond between seagrasses off the West Africa coast and tiny lucinid clams can exacerbate damage in hard times, researchers say March 10 in Current Biology. So protecting meadows may mean worrying just as much about the partnership as the seagrasses themselves, says coauthor Tjisse van der Heide of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

Seagrasses aren’t seaweed like kelp. They’re genuine flowering plants whose ancestors over about 100 million years adapted to a salty underwater life that would quickly kill most land plants (SN: 12/5/09, p. 22).

Clams can play a role in easing one risk of this life: debris breakdown that goes toxic. Their own dead

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