WORLD SEAGRASS DAY 1ST MARCH 2022
Seagrasses are flowering plants that have adapted over millions of years to life in the sea. They form dense, underwater meadows in the shallow, coastal areas of our seas. Seagrass meadows provide a habitat for thousands of species of marine animals, support the livelihoods of millions of people, produce oxygen, clean our coastal waters, buffer against ocean acidification, stabilise our coastlines and are a significant carbon sink. They are fantastic ecosystems that deserve recognition and today is all about giving them that. Today is World Seagrass Day.
Despite their many ecosystem services which are beneficial to planet and people, seagrasses are globally threatened. It is estimated that we lose approximately 7% of our global seagrass meadows each year, equivalent to a football field every 30 minutes. This is often a result of industrial and agricultural pollution leading to poor water quality, coastal development and in some locations damaging fishing practices. As the profile of seagrass grows and more people begin to recognise its value, it is increasingly important to protect these ecosystems. Yet, we do not know as much about seagrass as we do about other ecosystems. This is why we at Project Seagrass have developed SeagrassSpotter, a citizen science tool to record the global distribution of seagrass. If you have spotted seagrass, you can upload your sighting and help contribute to global seagrass conservation.
The decade between 2021-2030 is the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, a critical decade for seagrass conservation. We must not only prevent the loss of existing seagrass beds but also restore what has already been lost. Fortunately, the motivation to restore lost habitats is gaining traction and that in part is thanks to this decade and the people behind it: #GenerationRestoration. Seagrass restoration can be quite straightforward. In our projects in the UK, children as young as 7 have been out in seagrass meadows picking mature seeds to be planted in restoration sites. #GenerationRestoration are drawing support from political leaders, scientific research and funders to massively scale up restoration and build community capacity to restore degraded habitats. A charity that embodies #GenerationRestoration is Seawilding, a community-led conservation project to restore seagrass and oyster beds. Find out more about their work here.
We also need to spread awareness of seagrass to more people to support its protection. At the heart of this is science communication that empowers people to tell the world about the importance of protecting our environment and to get involved with practical restoration. A recent TED talk by Carlos Duarte explains the significance of seagrass in the fight against climate change and shows the ingenious ways he and his team are protecting and rebuilding marine life. To get involved with the restoration of this critical habitat read the Seagrass Restoration Handbook for more information on how to restore common eelgrass, Zostera marina.
To find out more information about seagrass, head to our website projectseagrass.org and for more information on UK seagrass restoration head to seagrass.org.uk. To contribute to global seagrass conservation, head to seagrassspotter.org.
Images have been sourced from the Ocean Image Bank, a resource providing beautiful and powerful ocean imagery for free in support of ocean science and conservation. An officially endorsed project of the UN Ocean Decade.