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First case of hybridization among Halophila seagrass discovered by NSYSU and University of Ruhuna

National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) and University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka collaborated to publicize their research finding on the first case of hybridization among Halophila seagrass in the world-leading journal, PeerJ recently.

Dr. Shang-Yin Vanson Liu, Assistant Professor of the Department of Marine Biotechnology and Resources at NSYSU said that the topic of global climate change has been a significant field of research that is noted by today’s scientists and researchers. Mitigating and adapting to the global climate change requires an international scale of research for finding effective solutions. Most people know that reducing carbon emissions is one of the solutions, while some researchers work to explore carbon fixers in nature ecosystem, which is an issue worthy of more attention globally.

Dr. Liu has been working with Professor Terney Pradeep Kumara of the Department of Oceanography and Marine Geology from the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka under the sponsorship of the joint research center- Taiwan and Sri Lanka Environmental Change Sciences and Technology Innovation Center (TS/ECSTIC), which is an international joint research center established by NSYSU, University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJP), and University of Ruhuna in 2019. It is the first research paper of the joint team published under the project of TS/ECSTIC.

Dr. Shang-Yin Vanson Liu mentioned that Sri Lanka is an island country, surrounded by the tropical Indian Ocean having abundant marine and plant bio-resources. After their long tormented civil war from 1983 to 2009, Sri Lanka has been making great efforts to eliminate the political instability and to increase their economic growth. One of their policies is to promote academic research on science and technology. The TS/ECSTIC was founded for the purpose of promoting research in four environmental issues: 1) Terrestrial ecology and conservation, 2) Nutrient and carbon dynamics in the coastal zone of Sri Lanka, 3) Effect of global warming on coral reefs, marine ecosystems, mangroves, and seagrass bed, and 4) Smart shrimp aquaculture using the latest developed technologies.

Dr. Liu stated that Seagrass beds, which not only provide substantial ecological services but also serve as an important carbon fixer in the marine ecosystem and the carbon they stored and sequestered is what we called “blue carbon”. Blue carbon can sequester atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis, and then deposit in the sediments of seagrass beds. In recent years, climate change and anthropogenic effects have caused a global decline of its’ coverage in a rate of 7% per year. Therefore, there is an urgent need for research on their diversity, conservation, and restoration. The paper revealed a new species record and two potential new species of Halophila by using DNA barcoding which highlight the diversity of Halophila in Sri Lanka was underestimated; the team also discovered the first case of hybridization between Halophila ovalis and Halophila major. Dr. Liu emphasized that by using an integrated approach, cryptic seagrass diversity could be revealed. Their case can serve as an important reference not only for the Sri Lankan government but also Taiwan on conservation, restoration and protection of seagrass which may act as a natural buffer for climate changes.


Dr. Shang-Yin Vanson Liu

Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Biotechnology and Resources, National Sun Yat-sen University



Paper link: https://peerj.com/articles/10027/

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