Seagrass Meadows Build Shorelines in the Face of Rising Seas
Seagrass meadows create sediment that can be used to help build up the shorelines of areas that have been and will continue to be affected by rising sea levels, as well as restore the native marine biodiversity of the region.
The amount of life underwater is astonishing and is like a whole second world right under where we inhabit. It is home to hundreds of thousands of different species of plants, animals, and creatures that we rarely ever get to see.
Because of this distance, sometimes it’s difficult to understand the amount of damage we have done over the years to our friends in the oceans and seas worldwide. However, climate change still affects us all.
The people who inhabit island nations in the tropical areas of our world know this, unfortunately, all too well. They oftentimes are the ones who are directly impacted the worst. This has reached a point where it is threatening the very existence of their most important aspect, their islands themselves.
Rising sea levels are going to become a top priority of the 21st century. While this will impact some areas moderately, without genuine and direct intervention, this will devastate other areas. But nature has a way of correcting even the worst of our human errors, and as it turns out, tropical underwater seagrass meadows could be a promising way in order to help.
Seagrass is an underwater flowering plant that forms dense underwater meadows in coastal waters worldwide, from the Arctic all the way to the Maldives. These meadows are sanctuaries for fish, provide food for manatees and turtles, and absorb oxygen as much as other terrestrial plants do as well.
The main noteworthy aspect of these plants is that they create sediment that can help to maintain and rebuild coral reef islands. These islands in tropical regions worldwide were created off of coral reefs; as the fish and other creatures die in the area over time, their bones end up breaking down and creating sand that forms the islands that many people call home today.
However, due to climate change-caused coral bleaching, many of these reefs are dying.
Seagrass hosts tiny animals called epibionts, and some of these creatures are whisked off or simply fall off to be deposited along with the other sediment in nearby areas. These epibionts have been shown to be incredibly similar to the other sediment of the islands, and this buildup of epibionts can help reinforce and stabilize the shorelines of these islands.
The amount of sediment created is not insignificant either; according to researchers at DownToEarth, in an area of 1.1sq km, these seagrass meadows can create up to 726,000kg of sediment. Naturally, some of the sediment will be deposited along the ocean floor, but along the coastlines of these islands, this sand can be a huge boon to the long-term stability of these islands – in light of mass climate change.
Seagrass meadows, in addition to the regular sediment production, can restore a lot of the local biodiversity in areas that are tourist heavy, whose beaches draw them to visit, to begin with. Seagrass had previously been removed in order to create the white sand beach aesthetic appearance that many do think of as being natural to an area. However, seagrass meadows, Seahorses, and other tropical fish and fauna will come back, providing many benefits to the tourist economy in those areas.
We can do a lot now, more than ever before, to stop adding more damage to our climate. However, what has been done is quite dramatic. As a result, a major challenge for our generation and others to come will be to handle the effects of this ecological catastrophe in ways that aren’t generally thought of. Seagrass meadows can work, and as it turns out, turning back to nature to help us save it could work much better than conventional wisdom has had us believe.