This article was originally published on Ensia.


“Protecting the health and productivity of our oceans remains one of the biggest challenges facing humanity in the coming century. The future of our climate and food supply depends on it. But much of our efforts are currently misplaced. Instead of focusing on species and habitats potentially doomed by changing climate, we should target our research and conservation where it can make the biggest difference. If we are to protect many of the important roles the oceans play we need to take up the cause of seagrass meadows — some of the most important, vulnerable and ignored ecosystems in the world.

Significance of Seagrass

Seagrasses are plants adapted to live underwater where they form large meadows. Such meadows can sometimes be tens of kilometers in size. These grasses (related to terrestrial lilies rather than true grasses) have shoots and leaves above the sediment that can range from small, 1-centimeter (0.4-inch) paddlelike structures to long thickened leaves that are over a meter (3 feet) in length.

As major carbon stores, seagrasses help stabilize our climate, and damaging seagrass directly releases carbon dioxide stores into the atmosphere. Recent research has also demonstrated that seagrasses are highly efficient at removing pathogens and pollutants from the water column.

Seagrass meadows attract many different types of animals, to live, forage or seek shelter. For example, in the tropics many species of snapper spend critical times of their life cycle living in seagrass. In temperate climes this is also the case for species such as the Atlantic cod. In a recent global study, my colleagues and I determined for the first time that humans use these diverse and productive animals for food and for commercial and recreational purposes all around the world. From the remote Pacific islands to the coastline of Wales, where there are seagrass and people, there is fishing…”

Read on at: Ensia.