We in the dive industry can help educate our customers about the crucial value of preserving sea-grass meadows so that they can do a number of critical functions, from serving as vital habitat for many juvenile fish and critters as well as helping regulate global carbon.
Next time you’re on a boat and about to drop anchor, make sure there’s not a sea-grass bed below you. A new study shows that these fragile meadows can store up to twice as much carbon as the world’s temperate and tropical forests, playing a vital role in regulating global carbon.
“Unlike trees, sea grasses have very little biomass — they have no trunks or branches,” says Dr. James Fourqurean, professor of biology at Florida International University and scientist with the Blue Carbon Initiative. According to the study, sea-grass meadows store 90 percent of their carbon in the soil.
Researchers also estimate that while sea-grass meadows occupy less than 0.2 percent of the world’s oceans, they are responsible for more than 10 percent of all carbon buried annually in the ocean.
Roughly 29 percent of all historic sea-grass meadows have been destroyed, mainly due to dredging and degradation of water quality. “At least 1.5 percent of sea-grass meadows are lost every year,” says Fourqurean.
The study emphasizes that conserving and restoring sea-grass meadows — as well as salt marshes and mangroves — might reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and increase carbon stores. Says Fourqurean, “As divers, we need to raise awareness of the crucial role of these habitats in regulating global carbon.”