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Benjamin Lawrence JonesDoktorand

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Seagrass Ecosystem Research

Benjamin’s research is primarily focused on seagrass ecosystems and their associated fisheries. His PhD investigates the linkages between biodiversity and people using seagrass meadows as a model social-ecological system. He’s interested in these linkages more broadly to provide evidence for policy change across the Indo-Pacific that gives priority to seagrass meadows for the services they provide to people (e.g. livelihoods & food security), but also for measures that contribute to sustainable development (poverty reduction). Ben has been working with seagrass ecosystems for over 7 years and conducted seagrass associated research in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mauritius, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

His work also incorporates the conservation concerns of small-scale seagrass fisheries more broadly, including the by-catch (in terms of fish) implications of some fishing strategies and issues associated to destructive gear use (e.g. mosquito net fisheries).

Ben’s work has been featured in various popular science and public news media channels such as the BBC and National Geographic and he regularily contributes to The Conversation. 

Ben’s PhD is supervised by Associate Professor Johan Eklöf and co-supervised by Lina Mtwana Nordlund (Uppsala University), Maricela de la Torre Castro (Stockholm University), Richard Unsworth (Swansea University) and Leanne Cullen-Unsworth (Cardiff University).

Ben is also a coordinating member of the Indo-Pacific Seagrass Network (IPSN).


Citizen Science

Ben is a co-developer of SeagrassSpotter, an entry-level citizen science project. Established in 2016 in the UK, the project uses a smartphone app and website database as its platform and facilitates a participants’ ability to spot seagrass and upload geo-tagged photographs that include information about seagrass presence, condition and whether people are using it in any way (e.g. fishing). Expanding across Europe in late 2016, and Globally in 2018, the project has accumulated over 3000 sightings from nearly 100 countries and engaged over 2000 users.



Ben obtained a B.Sc. in Marine Biology at Swansea University where he went on to obtain an M.Res. in Aquatic Ecology and Conservation. His master's thesis focused on the role of seagrasses as indicators of change in the British Isles where multiple characteristics were used to assess how seagrasses responded to varying degrees of anthropogenic stress. The publication that followed was featured in the News at a glance section of Science.

During his masters, he co-founded the marine conservation charity Project Seagrass. Project Seagrass aims to conserve seagrass ecosystems through education, influence, research, and action. As director, he focuses on working to enhance understanding of the importance of seagrass using creative design to communicate scientific research to the wider public, as well as communicating this directly through workshops and events.

Ben’s previous work has focused on examining the factors that affect seagrass growth and he was involved with the Zostera Experimental Network (ZEN) to examine these factors. Other experience lies within the use of Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) to assess fish abundance and diversity across multiple habitats in the Indian Ocean. Since 2015, his work has focused on how seagrass meadows provide food security.

More recently, Ben has been involved as a technical expert in development of The Dugong and Seagrass Research Toolkit (developed in collaboration by Total, Total Abu Al Bukhoosh, the Environment – Agency Abu Dhabi and the Convention on Migratory Species Dugong MOU; and as a scientific advisor in the development of BBC’s landmark series Blue Planet 2.


Academic positions

  • 2013-present: Founding Director, Project Seagrass, UK.
  • 2018-present: Research Affiliate, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2017-18: Research Associate, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2015-17: Research Assistant, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2014-15: Marine Technician, SEACAMS, Swansea University, UK.
  • 2013-14: Lecturer in Tropical Marine Ecology, University of South Wales, UK


Committees and reviewing

World Seagrass Association

Student Representative, 2018 - present
Steering Committee Member, 2017 - present


International Seagrass Biology Workshop

Scientific Steering Group Member and Local Organiser, 12th International Seagrass Biology Workshop, 2016
Sub-Committee Member, 2018



McKenzie, L., Nordlund, L. M., Jones, B. L., Cullen-Unsworth, L. C., Roelfsema, C. M., & Unsworth, R. (2020). The global distribution of seagrass meadows. Environmental Research Letters.

Contributing Author to United Nations Environment Programme (2020). Out of the blue: The value of seagrasses to the environment and to people. UNEP, Nairobi.

Jones, B. L., & Unsworth, R. K. (2019). The perverse fisheries consequences of mosquito net malaria prophylaxis in East Africa. Ambio, 1-11.

Unsworth, R. K., McKenzie, L. J., Collier, C. J., Cullen-Unsworth, L. C., Duarte, C. M., Eklöf, J. S., Jarvis, J. C., Jones, B. L., & Nordlund, L. M. (2019). Global challenges for seagrass conservation. Ambio, 48(8), 801-815.

Unsworth, R. K., Bertelli, C., Cullen-Unsworth, L., Esteban, N., Lilley, R., Jones, B. L., Lowe, C., Nuuttila, H., & Rees, S. (2019). Sowing the seeds of seagrass recovery using hessian bags. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution7, 311.

Jones, B. L. et al. (2018). Complex yet fauna-deficient seagrass ecosystems at risk in southern Myanmar. Botanica Marina, 61(3), 193-203.

Unsworth, R.K.F, Ambo-Rappe, R., Jones, B.L., La Nafie, Y.A., Irawan, A., Hernawan, U.E., Moore, A.M. and Cullen-Unsworth, L.C. (2018). Indonesia's globally significant seagrass meadows are under widespread threat. Science of the Total Environment 634, 279-286.

Jones, B.L. et al. (2018). Conservation concerns of small-scale fisheries: By-catch impacts of a shrimp and finfish fishery in a Sri Lankan lagoon. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, article number: 52.

Jones, B.L, Cullen-Unsworth, L.C and Unsworth, R.K.F. (2018). Tracking nitrogen source using δ15N reveals human and agricultural drivers of seagrass degradation across the British Isles. Frontiers in Plant Science 9, article number: 133.

Cullen-Unsworth, L.C., Jones, B.L., Lilley, R. and Unsworth, R.K.F. (2018). Secret gardens under the sea: What are seagrass meadows and why are they important? Frontiers for Young Minds 6(2).

Jones, B.L. et al. (2017). Crowdsourcing conservation: The role of citizen science in securing a future for seagrass. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Cullen-Unsworth, L.C., Jones, B.L., Seary, R., Newman, R. and Unsworth, R.K.F. (2017). Reasons for seagrass optimism: local ecological knowledge confirms presence of dugongs. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Hind-Ozan, E.J. and Jones, B.L. (2017). Seagrass science is growing: a report on the 12th International Seagrass Biology Workshop. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Unsworth, R.K.F., Williams, B., Jones, B.L.& Cullen-Unsworth, L.C. (2017). Rocking the boat: damage to eelgrass by swinging boat moorings. Frontiers in Plant Science 8, article number: 1309.

Unsworth, R.K.F, Jones, B.L. & Cullen-Unsworth, L.C. (2016). Seagrass meadows are threatened by expected loss of peatlands in Indonesia. Global Change Biology 22(9), 2957-2958.

Jones, B.L. & Unsworth, R.K.F. (2016). The perilous state of seagrass in the British Isles. Royal Society Open Science 3, article number: 150596.



I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Sowing the Seeds of Seagrass Recovery Using Hessian Bags

    2019. Richard K. F. Unsworth (et al.). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7


    Seagrass meadows are an important wetland habitat that have been degraded globally but have an important carbon storage role. In order to expand the restoration of these productive and biodiverse habitats methods are required that can be used for large scale habitat creation across a range of environmental conditions. The spreading of seagrass seeds has been proven to be a successful method for restoring seagrass around the world, however in places where tidal range is large such methods become limited by resultant water movements. Here we describe and test a method for deploying seagrass seeds of the species Zostera marina over large scales using a new, simple method Bags of Seagrass Seeds Line (BoSSLine). This method involved planting seeds and sediment using natural fiber hessian bags deployed along strings anchored onto the seabed. When deployed in a suitable environment 94% of bags developed mature seagrass shoots, unfortunately one site subjected to a large storm event resulted in sediment burial of the bags and no seed germination. Bags were filled with 100 seeds with each leading to the development of 2.37 +/- 2.41 mature shoots (206 +/- 87 mm in length) 10 months after planting. The method was proven successful however the experiments illustrated the need to ensure habitat suitability prior to their use. Low seed success rate was comparable to other restoration studies, however further trials are recommended to ensure ways to improve this rate. In conclusion, this study provides evidence for an effective, simple method Bags of Seagrass Seeds Line (BoSSLine) for deploying seeds of the seagrass Zostera marina over large scales.

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  • The perverse fisheries consequences of mosquito net malaria prophylaxis in East Africa

    2019. Benjamin L. Jones, Richard K. F. Unsworth. Ambio


    Malaria is a serious global health issue, with around 200 million cases per year. As such, great effort has been put into the mass distribution of bed nets as a means of prophylaxis within Africa. Distributed mosquito nets are intended to be used for malaria protection, yet increasing evidence suggests that fishing is a primary use for these nets, providing fresh concerns for already stressed coastal ecosystems. While research documents the scale of mosquito net fisheries globally, no quantitative analysis of their landings exists. The effects of these fisheries on the wider ecosystem assemblages have not previously been examined. In this study, we present the first detailed analysis of the sustainability of these fisheries by examining the diversity, age class, trophic structure and magnitude of biomass removal. Dragnet landings, one of two gear types in which mosquito nets can be utilised, were recorded across ten sites in northern Mozambique where the use of Mosquito nets for fishing is common. Our results indicate a substantial removal of juveniles from coastal seagrass meadows, many of which are commercially important in the region or play important ecological roles. We conclude that the use of mosquito nets for fishing may contribute to food insecurity, greater poverty and the loss of ecosystem functioning.

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  • Global challenges for seagrass conservation

    2019. Richard K. F. Unsworth (et al.). Ambio 48 (8), 801-815


    Seagrasses, flowering marine plants that form underwater meadows, play a significant global role in supporting food security, mitigating climate change and supporting biodiversity. Although progress is being made to conserve seagrass meadows in select areas, most meadows remain under significant pressure resulting in a decline in meadow condition and loss of function. Effective management strategies need to be implemented to reverse seagrass loss and enhance their fundamental role in coastal ocean habitats. Here we propose that seagrass meadows globally face a series of significant common challenges that must be addressed from a multifaceted and interdisciplinary perspective in order to achieve global conservation of seagrass meadows. The six main global challenges to seagrass conservation are (1) a lack of awareness of what seagrasses are and a limited societal recognition of the importance of seagrasses in coastal systems; (2) the status of many seagrass meadows are unknown, and up-to-date information on status and condition is essential; (3) understanding threatening activities at local scales is required to target management actions accordingly; (4) expanding our understanding of interactions between the socio-economic and ecological elements of seagrass systems is essential to balance the needs of people and the planet; (5) seagrass research should be expanded to generate scientific inquiries that support conservation actions; (6) increased understanding of the linkages between seagrass and climate change is required to adapt conservation accordingly. We also explicitly outline a series of proposed policy actions that will enable the scientific and conservation community to rise to these challenges. We urge the seagrass conservation community to engage stakeholders from local resource users to international policy-makers to address the challenges outlined here, in order to secure the future of the world’s seagrass ecosystems and maintain the vital services which they supply.

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  • The global distribution of seagrass meadows

    2020. Len J. McKenzie (et al.). Environmental Research Letters 15 (7)


    Seagrass meadows globally are under pressure with worldwide loss and degradation, but there is a growing recognition of the global importance of seagrass ecosystem services, particularly as a major carbon sink and as fisheries habitat. Estimates of global seagrass spatial distribution differ greatly throughout the published literature, ranging from 177 000 to 600 000 km(2)with models suggesting potential distribution an order of magnitude higher. The requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement by outlining National Determined Contributions (NDC's) to reduce emissions is placing an increased global focus on the spatial extent, loss and restoration of seagrass meadows. Now more than ever there is a need to provide a more accurate and consistent measure of the global spatial distribution of seagrass. There is also a need to be able to assess the global spread of other seagrass ecosystem services and in their extension, the values of these services. In this study, by rationalising and updating a range of existing datasets of seagrass distribution around the globe, we have estimated with Moderate to High confidence the global seagrass area to date as 160 387 km(2), but possibly 266 562 km(2)with lower confidence. We break this global estimate down to a national level with a detailed analysis of the current state of mapped distribution and estimates of seagrass area per country. Accurate estimates, however, are challenged by large areas remaining unmapped and inconsistent measures being used. Through the examination of current global maps, we are able to propose a pathway forward for improving mapping of this important resource. More accurate measure of global #seagrass distribution, critical for assessing current state and trends

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