Seagrasses’ Role in Global Health

© Ante Zuljevic
In a recent article in the science publication “Science News,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists Dr. Jud Kenworthy and Dr. Mark Fonseca point out the role of seagrasses in maintaining a healthy coastal environment, providing food for manatees and sea turtles and making sure we can enjoy our beach vacations.

© Ante ZuljevicFonseca acknowledges that meadows of seagrasses “aren’t vacation destinations”. But without seagrasses, he says, we wouldn’t have so many beach vacation options. This is because seagrasses minimize the effect of ocean waves on the shore, hence reducing beach erosion.

However, seagrasses are in danger. Human activities and climate change threaten the coastal ecosystem, and we are currently losing them at a rate of 9 percent per year. That compares to losing a seagrass bed the size of soccer field every 30 minutes!

As manager of Conservation International’s (CI) marine climate change program, I am working with Kenworthy, Fonseca and other partners to bring public attention to this important ecosystem, which provides resources for millions of people around the world and plays a fundamental role in protecting our coastline from the impacts of climate change.

Considered a neglected ecosystem by the media, seagrasses have recently gotten more public attention due to their key role in sequestering carbon that fuel emissions are pumping into the ocean. Recently, CI collaborated on an IUCN report, “The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks,” which includes a chapter on the role of seagrasses in carbon sequestration in the ocean.

LEARN MORE: The Hidden Value Of Seagrasses
WATCH: Dr. Giuseppe Di Carlo gets up close and personal with manatees in his work
DOWNLOAD: Economic Values of Coral Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses (PDF – 7.82 KB)

Dr. Giuseppe Di Carlo is manager of the marine climate change program at Conservation International


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