- Seagrass meadows are composed of flowering plants that grow in shallow coastal waters, forming dense underwater carpets that can cover large areas.
- They thrive in areas where sunlight can penetrate the water, allowing them to undergo photosynthesis for growth.
- Also, they typically grow in sandy or muddy substrates, where their roots can take hold and stabilize the plant.
- Though they cover only 0.1% of the ocean floor, these meadows are highly efficient carbon sinks, storing up to 18% of the world’s oceanic carbon.
- They also filter pollutants from the water, trap sediments and prevent erosion, thereby improving water clarity and quality.
- According to the “Out of the Blue: The Value of Seagrasses to the Environment and to People” report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an estimated 7% of seagrass habitat is being lost worldwide each year.
- In India, the major seagrass beds exist along the coastline of the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay regions on the east coast, the Gulf of Kachchh region on the west coast, the lagoons of islands in Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.
- Scuba divers in Northern Germany are extracting seagrass shoots to replant in barren areas, aiming to combat climate change and revive these ocean carbon sinks.
- Construction of ports and marinas can destroy seagrass habitats or reduce their light availability.
- Runoff of nutrients, chemicals and sediments from agriculture, industry and urban areas can cause eutrophication, algal blooms and turbidity, which can smother or shade out seagrass plants.
- Rising sea temperatures, sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events can stress or damage seagrass plants and alter their distribution and growth.