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Seagrasses are one of the most widely found ecosystems on the planet.
In fact, seagrass is found along the coast of every continent except Antarctica.
Found in shallow, salty, and brackish waters, they only cover roughly 0.2% of the sea floor globally, are are responsible for about 11% of the organic carbon buried in the ocean.
What is Seagrass?
Seagrasses are underwater flowering plants with deep roots (up to 4 ft.) that provide critical ecosystem services around the world. They form dense underwater beds, or meadows, some even large enough to be seen from space. Having evolved over 100 million years ago, 72 species of seagrass can be found today. And although they are often confused with seaweed and kelp, seagrasses are more closely related to the flowering plants that you see on land.
SMALL BUT MIGHTY
Underrated Carbon Storage Powerhouses
Similar to other blue carbon ecosystems, seagrasses have proven to be incredibly efficient in sequestering carbon, up to twice as much as the average terrestrial forest.
As one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, seagrasses absorb carbon dioxide from the ocean and atmosphere and store it in their biomass, where it accumulates over time, and is eventually stored in the soil for millennia.
Seagrass meadows provide critical shelter, habitat, and food to a wide range of species, including sea turtles and manatees.
They also filter sediment and other nutrients from the water, improving water quality and acting as storm, flooding, and erosion buffers.
Despite protecting our coastlines and providing countless other benefits to humans worldwide, like being used to fertilize fields, insulate houses, weave furniture, thatch roofs, make bandages, and fill mattresses, seagrasses are among the most threatened ecosystems on earth.
The annual global loss of seagrass is approximately 1.5%, and currently, about 29% of Earth’s seagrass ecosystems have been lost. This amounts to about 2 football fields of seagrass lost each hour.
Human activities and climate change impacts are continuously putting these meadows, and all the species that depend on them, and a dangerous risk.
Development, polluted runoff, climate change, deforestation, dredging, and fishing practices are just a few of the threats facing our remaining seagrass meadows.
Currently, most seagrass conservation focuses on maintaining their biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide for humans and species around the world. And despite being a key solution to mitigating climate change effects, no international legislation for seagrasses currently exists, and protection typically occurs by local and regional agencies.