Seagrass ecosystems reduce exposure to bacterial pathogens of humans, fishes, and invertebrates

Science. 2017 Feb 17;355(6326):731-733. doi: 10.1126/science.aal1956.


Plants are important in urban environments for removing pathogens and improving water quality. Seagrass meadows are the most widespread coastal ecosystem on the planet. Although these plants are known to be associated with natural biocide production, they have not been evaluated for their ability to remove microbiological contamination. Using amplicon sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene, we found that when seagrass meadows are present, there was a 50% reduction in the relative abundance of potential bacterial pathogens capable of causing disease in humans and marine organisms. Moreover, field surveys of more than 8000 reef-building corals located adjacent to seagrass meadows showed twofold reductions in disease levels compared to corals at paired sites without adjacent seagrass meadows. These results highlight the importance of seagrass ecosystems to the health of humans and other organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Fish Diseases / microbiology*
  • Fishes / microbiology*
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Seawater / microbiology*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Waterborne Diseases / microbiology*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.51275