Seagrass Meadows

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Seagrass can capture carbon an incredible 35 times faster than rainforests.

Although rainforests are vital for capturing carbon from the atmosphere, their efficiency is significantly less than that of the seagrass covering the world's sea floor. According to the United Nations Environment Program, the mostly 'unseen' seagrass can capture carbon an amazing 35 times faster than rainforests.

Unfortunately seagrass covers a tiny percentage of the seafloor - less than 1 per cent - and seagrass meadows around the world are declining. Still, even with that meagre coverage, seagrass accounts for 10 per cent of the ocean’s capacity to store carbon.

Considering the carbon-capturing power of seagrass, the good news is that a new project called Seagrass Ocean Rescue is aiming to reverse the trend by seeding coastal waters around the UK to create new seagrass beds. Backed by the WWF, the scheme started with an “experimental” 20,000 square metre area on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast in South Wales. Seagrass seeds are planted on the seafloor in hessian bags and, ss the hessian degrades, the seeds, collected by divers from underwater meadows in waters off the southern coasts of England and Wales, germinate and establish on the ocean bed.

The plan is to plant one million seeds while inspiring similar projects in other areas around the country. Seagrass restoration projects have been successful elsewhere, such as in Chesapeake Bay where a team from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science pioneered mechanical planting. They used a specially modified boat to plant seagrass seedlings directly into the seabed and successfully restored seagrass meadows that were destroyed by plant disease and hurricanes in the 1930s.

Not only does this boost the bay’s carbon-capturing ability, but it also led to another benefit as bay scallops have successfully been reintroduced to an area where they have been extinct since the hurricanes. Indeed, 20 per cent of the world’s major fisheries depend on seagrass meadows to act as nurseries, Project Seagrass says.

Furthermore, seagrass plays a key role in stopping coastal erosion and, in the UK, many more species of fish live in or visit seagrass, compared to other habitats.

Original source: EcoWatch