Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Halophila stipulacea is a dioecious perennial herbaceous plant with a terete rhizome and erect stems that reach up to 2-3 x 0.5 mm long. Leaves are of 1 pair on each erect stem; the blade is 2.5-5.5 x 0.6-1 cm, glabrous, oblong-linear, with rounded apex, cuneate base and serrulate margins. Male flowers are with 7–15 mm long pedicel and ovate tepals, with a prominent central vein; while female flowers are sessile. The fruit is ellipsoid, with a beak up to 6 mm long and 30–40 seeds.

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Distribution

Range Description

Halophila stipulacea is found from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, down the coast of east Africa to Mozambique. It occurs around most of Madagascar and around the islands of the west Indian Ocean. It is also reported from east India.

In the Mediterranean Sea, H. stipulacea occurs from Egypt to southern Italy, and it may have been introduced through the Suez Canal.

In the Caribbean Sea, H. stipulacea has recently been collected in the West Indies on the islands of Grenada, Dominica, and St. Lucia and may have been introduced (Ruiz and Ballantine 2004, Willette and Ambrose 2009).
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Distribution in Egypt

South Red Sea Coast, North Red Sea Coast, Arabian Desert, Galala Desert, Mountainous Southern Sinai, Isthmic Desert, North Sinai, Mareotic Sector.

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Global Distribution

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, India.

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Physical Description

Size

Height: 2-3 x 0.5 mm

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Beds of Halophila stipulacea occur in the shallows (Jacobs 1985), but this species also occurs in much deeper water and has been recorded to depths greater than 50 m (Lipkin 1977). Halophila stipulacea, although scarce below 50 m, was collected by dredge off Cyprus from 145 m (Lipkin et al. 2003) and is the deepest seagrass reported worldwide (Short et al. 2007). It grows in a wide range of environmental conditions, and in a variety of coastal substrates (Lipkin 1977, Jacobs 1985). This species has a much narrower ecological range in the eastern Mediterranean, being restricted to soft substrates only. These various characteristics contribute to its invasive potential in the Caribbean Sea (Ruiz and Ballantine 2004).

This species is a prolific seeder and is fast-growing, and therefore it can expand rapidly from small populations. It is ephemeral with rapid turn-over (Malm 2006) and is well adapted to high levels of disturbance. Halophila stipulacea copes well with hypersalinity (up to 60 psu) and is euryhaline in nature (Lipkin 1975). In the Arabian Gulf, it tolerates extreme conditions with salinity varying from 38-70 psu and temperatures of 10-39°C (inshore) and 19-33°C (offshore).

Halophila stipulacae is an important food source for dugongs in the Indian Ocean, and also for green turtles throughout its range.

Systems
  • Marine
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Sheltered shallow sea-water, sandy and muddy shores.

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Perennial

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Short, F.T., Carruthers, T.J.R., Waycott, M., Kendrick, G.A., Fourqurean, J.W., Callabine, A., Kenworthy, W.J. & Dennison, W.C.

Reviewer/s
Livingstone, S., Harwell, H. & Carpenter, K.E.

Contributor/s

Justification
Halophila stipulacea is found in the Indian Ocean and is an invasive species in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. This species is widespread and common and can form dense stands. The overall population is thought to be stable. It grows in a wide range of environmental conditions, and in a variety of coastal substrates. Coastal development can locally affect seagrass beds, as can poor water quality. However, this is a fast growing species and it can recolonize quickly after removal. Halophila stipulacea is listed as Least Concern.
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Population

Population
Halophila stipulacea is common and can form dense stands. The overall population is thought to be stable or increasing.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
Threats to Halophila stipulacea include declines in water quality and it is sensitive to sedimentation and pollution. Seagrass beds in the northern Red Sea are threatened by the pollution caused by fish aquaculture. Locally, land reclamation is a threat, and large areas have been lost in the Arabian Gulf. Other local threats include coastal development, trawling activities, dredging and pollution.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
More research is needed to evaluate this species where gaps in population trends occur within its range. More knowledge of its status and biology as an invasive species is required.

This species is found in the Marrawah Marine Biosphere Reserve (2007) in the UAE that is primarily set up to protect the Dugong.

It is protected in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within its range.

In United Arab Emirates, the implementation of the beginning of an effective management program that would start with baseline mapping, followed by periodic monitoring and mapping efforts. This species is protected under the UNEP Regional Seas Programme, GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council), GAOCMAO (Gulf Area Oil Companies Mutual Aid Organisation) and other agreements which relate to environmental management and pollution controls. It is considered in the most recent management plan of the Mombosa Marine National Park and Reserve, and integrated coastal zone management initiatives in Tanzania by IUCN, Zanzibar (Menai Bay Conservation Project), Mafia Marine Park (by WWF) and Kinondoni Coastal Area Management Programme (Green and Short 2003).
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