Global seagrass losses parallel significant declines observed in corals and mangroves over the past 50 years. These combined declines have resulted in accelerated global losses to ecosystem services in coastal waters. Seagrass meadows can be extensive (hundreds of square kilometers) and long-lived (thousands of years), with the meadows persisting predominantly through vegetative (clonal) growth. They also invest a large amount of energy in sexual reproduction. In this article, we explore the role that sexual reproduction, pollen, and seed dispersal play in maintaining species distributions, genetic diversity, and connectivity among seagrass populations. We also address the relationship between long-distance dispersal, genetic connectivity, and the maintenance of genetic diversity that may enhance resilience to stresses associated with seagrass loss. Our reevaluation of seagrass dispersal and recruitment has altered our perception of the importance of long-distance dispersal and has revealed extensive dispersal at scales much larger than was previously thought possible.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1