The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has said one of the most threatened yet overlooked ecosystems on earth, seagrass, has the ability to absorb carbon and can be a weapon to fight global heating.
UNEP, in a press release, said seagrass is a flowering marine plant whose blades form dense meadows in shallow, sheltered areas along coastlines and has a range of benefits.
“Seagrass acts as a nursery and food source for a wide variety of marine life, provides a home for many fish and charismatic animals such as turtles and dugongs, protects coastlines by absorbing wave energy, produces oxygen and cleans the ocean by soaking up polluting nutrients produced on land by humans,” it said.
According to the release, seagrass accounts for 10 per cent of the ocean’s capacity to store carbon, despite occupying only 0.2 per cent of the sea floor, and it can capture carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.
While noting that the mitigation potential per unit area of restoring seagrasses is relatively high, it said the mitigation potential of seagrass conservation is exceptionally high, and much higher than that of saltmarshes and mangroves.
“It’s important to understand that there are many unknowns with seagrass. Data on the regional cover and carbon stocks in seagrass meadows is sparse for some regions, particularly the Indo-Pacific, Africa and South America,” it also stated.
UNEP noted that the potential of seagrasses to sequester carbon is now starting to gain international attention as efforts to tackle the climate emergency become ever more urgent.