Seagrasses definitely don’t get the same amount of attention as coral reefs. But their importance to our marine eco-sytems and the dangers they face, are very clear.
“Seagrasses don’t get as much attention as coral reefs, but these “hidden forests” store carbon, keep the water clear and are a vital habitat for marine life.
Around the world, 58 species of seagrasses hug the coastline of every continent except Antarctica. These underwater flowering plants — more closely related to lilies than grasses — are often overlooked and underappreciated, but these “hidden forests” have an outsized impact when it comes to tackling climate change and supporting other marine ecosystems.
Seagrasses occupy less than 0.2% of the seafloor but represent up to 10% of the ocean’s capacity to store carbon, known as “blue carbon.” Although the amount they can store depends on the species and location, some seagrasses can store twice as much carbon as the world’s temperate and tropical forests. They also help keep the water clear by capturing sediments. They cycle nutrients and provide important habitats for fish, crustaceans and shellfish.
But these underwater meadows are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth ― at risk from climate change, coastal development and nutrient pollution, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which enter the ocean from wastewater treatment plants, stormwater, agriculture and other sources. These pollutants cause phytoplankton and algae to grow more rapidly, reducing water clarity and making it harder for seagrasses to get enough light to photosynthesize.
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