Seagrass: Climate Change and How You Can Help
Climate change is a phenomenon that is slowly suffocating our planet. Our oceans are being poisoned through human activities (dredging, nutrient runoff, sewage, and more). Seagrass meadows – a coastal ecosystem – works to combat ocean acidification through absorbing carbon dioxide. The flowering plant resides in 159 countries with over 70 species under the classification of “seagrass.” It’s survivable temperature ranges from 0 to 45ºC, which is one of the reasons why seagrass is found in many parts of the world.
Seagrass meadows handle “Blue Carbon” (carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems) and account for 10% of carbon sequestration/burial that happens in oceans, even though these meadows only occupy around 0.2% of the seafloor (Grimsditch 2019). In fact, seagrass meadows sequester carbon 35 times faster than rainforests, although rainforests are still rightfully advertised as one of nature’s key combatants to climate change. Overall, rainforests sequester around 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon a year, while coastal ecosystems sequester 4.8 million metric tons of carbon, and store 2.9 billion metric tons in their soil (EPA 2019): the ability to store organic carbon in soil reduces the amount of carbon that would otherwise be in our atmosphere.
Seagrass is also a primary food source for animals, such as manatees, sea turtles, and parrotfish. These herbivores, along with plenty of other marine species, are losing a main food source due to climate change, and has sparked recent protection plans for these animals, such as Florida’s move to feed manatees who are slowly being starved, as 13% of Tampa Bay’s seagrass was lost in the past two years. In 2021, over 1,000 manatees – roughly 15% of the state’s manatee population – died due to starvation; experts predict that hundreds more will die in the near future.
Something that you – the reader – can do to help coastal ecosystems is to purchase more from local farms and eat less meat. The latter is a vital step in combating climate change, and especially combatting synthetic fertilizers from industrial farms. Industrial cattle are fed corn, wheat, and soy, along with plenty of pesticides to regulate insects and pests. The fertilizer runoff leads to eutrophication, which is an excessive abundance of nutrients that lead to a dense growth of algae and plant life. This results in the depletion of oxygen in a nearby body of water, which prevents seagrass from photosynthesizing.
It is unknown whether conservation efforts will have a large impact on sustaining these ecosystems: nonetheless, we have to fight for their protection, as they have protected and provided for us.
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