The Importance Of Seagrass Restoration
Seagrasses are found in many regions of the planet, from the warm tropical seas to the cold Arctic Circle waters. The seagrass gets its name because the majority of the species have long, green, grass-like leaves. They’re sometimes mistaken for seaweed, although their true ancestors are the flowering plants you see on land.
The more than half a hundred species of seagrass are typically classified into four major groups: the Posidoniaceae, Hydrocharitaceae, Zosteraceae, and Cymodoceaceae. They can create thick underwater beds, some of which can be huge enough to be spotted from space. In fact, seagrasses are said to be one of the world’s most prolific ecosystems though they sometimes go unnoticed.
The Status Of Seagrass Populations Today
Seagrass beds form crucial ecosystems and habitats in coastal regions; sadly, in recent years, urbanization and tourism have grown in the coastal regions. And these are now putting significant strains on the seagrass ecosystem.
Experts believe that the condition of the global seagrass population is currently unhealthy and many seagrass meadows are damaged. The spatial distribution, biodiversity, percentage coverage, and community composition of seagrass beds have all been impacted by anthropogenic disturbance activities like industrial coastal development, boat traffic, and tourism-related activities.
Why Carry Out Seagrass Restoration Initiatives
Seagrasses offer a variety of ecological benefits. Thus, restoration projects like the Indian River Lagoon Restoration Project are of utmost importance to the planet. Keep reading to discover more about the importance of seagrasses and why their restoration is a necessity.
Sea Grass Prevents Coastal Erosion
Due to their long blades, seagrass meadows function as barriers against storm damage and work to prevent coastal erosion. Erosion along many coastlines is a concern brought on by rising sea levels. Since some seagrass varieties possess leaf blades up to a meter long, this can greatly help tame wave action, which averts coastal erosion and protects human properties that are along the coast.
Preservation Of Marine Life Diversity
A huge variety of marine species, including fish, crustaceans, turtles, dugongs, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins, depend on seagrass beds. Sandflats and mud can be transformed into very intricate meadows by seagrass. The ecology that’s created by these underwater forests is home to thousands of marine creatures, including more than a thousand different species of fish.
Seahorses and turtles, two endangered species, can be found in underwater seagrass meadows. They serve as essential fish larval nurseries as well. In fact, around 20% of the largest fisheries in the world are thought to depend on the productivity of seagrass meadows. Additionally, they offer a secure environment for creatures such as cuttlefish and sharks to lay their eggs.
Seagrasses are classified as primary producers since they produce their own food through photosynthesis and may be consumed by animals. Hence, seagrass plays a significant role in the food chain.
Seagrass Provide Food And Livelihood To Humans
Through aquaculture, coastal storm protection, and marine tourism, seagrass directly supports the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people around the world.
Seagrass offers a reasonably consistent supply of fish, giving inhabitants a feeling of food security. Food security is crucial because there will be more need for food and the competition for resources will increase as the world’s population grows. Both food security and biodiversity may be at risk with the depletion of seagrass meadows; hence, the need for its restoration.
Seagrasses are said to support almost three billion people through food and financial assistance from coastal conservation, coastal fishing, and their cultural significance. This places seagrass meadows, behind estuaries and wetlands, as the third-most important environment in the entire globe. To put it in monetary terms, experts believe that the global economy benefits from the seagrass ecosystems to the extent of almost two trillion USD annually.
Sediments Are Stabilized Thanks To Seagrass
Seagrass-free ocean bottom regions are more susceptible to powerful wave activity from storms and currents. Similar to how land grasses stop soil erosion, seagrasses’ broad root systems grow both horizontally and vertically and contribute to stabilizing the sea floor. Beaches, residences, and businesses may be more vulnerable to storm damage if there are no seagrasses to lessen the strength of the currents at the bottom.
Improvement Of Water Quality
Seagrasses, which are marine plants, photosynthesize to help oxygenate the water stream. As discussed earlier, seagrass meadows help to stabilize sediment, which enhances water clarity and raises the quality of the nearby water supply.
Seagrass cleans up contaminated seawater by sieving the water column. This involves eliminating fish infections, which maintains healthier local fish populations and lowers seafood pollution. The enhanced water quality benefits nearby coral reefs and coral patches, which are situated among seagrass meadows. Seagrass meadows can lower bacterial infections that cause disease by 50%, which is advantageous for nearby coral reefs and people.
Ocean acidification can be minimized by the integration of carbon inside seagrass tissues, which can change the local pH and boost coral reef calcification.
Conservation Of The Connection Between Ecosystems
The interactions of tropical seagrasses with coral reefs and mangroves are crucial. The environment is stabilized by all of these systems, providing crucial biological and physical support for other communities.
Barrier reefs shield coastlines from the elements, and the lagoon that forms between the mainland and the reef is shielded from incoming waves, fostering the growth of mangrove and seagrass populations. Due to the slow water flow caused by seagrasses, sediment that is suspended falls out. By lowering sediment levels in the water, this sediment trapping helps corals.
Seagrasses and corals are less likely to be suffocated because mangroves capture silt from the land. Mangroves may ultimately be able to colonize substrate created by sediment banks generated by seagrasses. These three communities sequester and retain nutrients to prevent their loss and dispersion into the nearby ocean waters.
Reduction Of Ocean Pollution
It has been discovered that seagrass meadows contribute to the capture of ocean plastics. Only 1% of the plastic in the world’s oceans is thought to be floating, like the trash found inside the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; the remainder is thought to be sinking to the ocean floor.
These plastic fragments can be caught by seagrasses in their natural fibers, which eventually congeal into tiny balls known as ‘Neptune balls.’ During storms, these plastic clusters are ejected from the meadow and end up on beaches. Seagrass meadows in the Mediterranean alone are thought to be capable of capturing 867 million bits of plastic annually.
Regrettably, seagrasses are among the most underappreciated and endangered organisms in the world. These unassuming marine blooming plants perform a critical role in maintaining the health of the seas and providing a conducive home for a wide variety of marine creatures. But it’s not too late. Seagrass restoration initiatives are key in protecting seagrasses across the globe.