Photo source: Wildlife Conservation Society
Most people believe that seagrasses are simply grasses that grow in the ocean, but this is not the case—seagrasses are among the most prolific and essential ecosystems on the planet. They are floral plants that grow in sheltered shallow regions along our coast. Lilies and orchids are their closest terrestrial relatives.
Furthermore, seagrasses are plants that provide habitat for hundreds of important species and crucial ecological processes—that is why they are referred to as the “lungs of the sea.”
Scientists, Environmentalists, and climate advocates are calling to save our seagrasses! Why saving our seagrasses means saving the world? Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why we need to Save Our Seagrasses!
Seagrasses remove carbon dioxide from the water
Seagrasses photosynthesize, although they only occupy 0.1 percent of the seafloor, they are responsible for 11% of the organic carbon buried in the ocean. Seagrasses generate energy and grow, taking carbon from the water and producing oxygen in the process. One acre of seagrass is projected to sequester 74 pounds of carbon per year - the same amount emitted by a car traveling 3,860 miles.
Seagrasses help address Climate change impact
Seagrass can assist communities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Seagrasses are nature-based solutions to many threats facing coastal waters and communities. They help to safeguard shorelines from storms by slowing currents and protecting coastlines from erosion.
Seagrasses are water filters
Seagrasses can improve water quality even further by absorbing nutrients from land drainage. They also retain fine particles and dissolved substances in the surrounding water, which catalyze in increasing water clarity.
Seagrasses are habitats and food for sea animals
Seagrasses are important to wide diversities of marine life, from fish to crustaceans, turtles to dugongs, sea cucumbers to sea urchins. These sea creatures rely on seagrass for food, shelter, breeding, nursery regions, and wildlife corridors.
Seagrasses are diverse
Seagrasses are a diverse group of marine flowering plants that exhibit a range of characteristics with over 70 species recorded. Its diversity will lead to the future discovery of medicine or nutrients. For example, Thalassia hemprichii Seagrass Extract has antimicrobial and antioxidant potential.
Large fisheries depend on seagrasses
The removal of all seagrass has disastrous consequences for local fisheries and even the shape of the seafloor. Seagrasses provide habitats for invertebrates and juvenile fish. Experts believe that seagrass serves as a nursery for one-fifth of the world's most-landed fish species and that it supports 20% of the world's greatest fisheries.
Seagrasses alleviate poverty
Lastly, seagrasses alleviate poverty in both financial and marine lives. Their ecosystems serve coastal populations all around the world by providing a variety of ecosystem services. They support a diverse range of marine life, as well as commercial and artisanal fishing. Thus, close to 3 billion people rely on them for nourishment, and 400 million people in the developing world rely on them for half of their animal protein.
Call to action!
That is why governments must take a firm stance in safeguarding and restoring them. Seagrasses are not just grasses; they are essential to the environment, to people, and to marine lives.