Seagrass ecosystems at a 'global crisis'

Dec 01, 2006

An international team of scientists is calling for a targeted global conservation effort to preserve seagrasses and their ecological services for the world’s coastal ecosystems, according to an article published in the December issue of Bioscience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

The article "A Global Crisis for Seagrass Ecosystems" cites the critical role seagrasses play in coastal systems and how costal development, population growth and the resulting increase of nutrient and sediment pollution have contributed to large-scale losses worldwide.

"Seagrasses are the coal mine canaries of coastal ecosystems," said co-author Dr. William Dennison of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "The fate of seagrasses can provide resource managers advance signs of deteriorating ecological conditions caused by poor water quality and pollution."

Among its findings, the study analyzed an apparent disconnect between the scientific community’s concerns over seagrass habitat and its coverage in the popular media. While recent studies rank seagrass as one of the most valuable habitat in coastal systems, media coverage of other habitats – including salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs – receive 3 to 100-fold more media attention than seagrass systems.

"Translating scientific understanding of the value of seagrass ecosystems into public awareness, and thus effective seagrass management and restoration, has not been as effective as for other coastal ecosystems, such as salt marshes, mangroves, or coral reefs," said co-author Dr. Robert Orth of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. "Elevating public awareness about this impending crisis is critical to averting it."

"This report is a call to the world’s coastal managers that we need to do more to protect seagrass habitat," said co-author Dr. Tim Carruthers of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "Seagrasses are just one of the many keys to maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems and their biodiversity."

Seagrasses – a unique group of flowering plants that have adapted to exist fully submersed in the sea – profoundly influence the physical, chemical and biological environments of coastal waters. They provide critical habitat for aquatic life, alter water flow and can help mitigate the impact of nutrient and sediment pollution.

Source: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Explore further: Team defines new biodiversity metric

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Heat wave offers glimpse into climate change

Aug 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —An unprecedented marine heat wave that swept the Southeast Indian Ocean in 2011 has given FIU scientists a glimpse into the future of climate change.

High-CO2 world threatens seabed life

Jun 20, 2014

Environmental change is transforming many parts of the north-east Atlantic seabed, and according to a newly-published paper this will almost certainly get worse in the coming decades.

Humble plants may save the planet

Aug 16, 2013

Marine ecologists call them seagrass meadows. They once wrapped Australia's coastline providing sanctuary and food for dugongs and turtles, habitats for fish to breed and myriad other ecosystem services such ...

Recommended for you

Team defines new biodiversity metric

14 hours ago

To understand how the repeated climatic shifts over the last 120,000 years may have influenced today's patterns of genetic diversity, a team of researchers led by City College of New York biologist Dr. Ana ...

Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

18 hours ago

The Natural History Museum of Denmark recently discovered a unique gift from one of the greatest-ever scientists. In 1854, Charles Darwin – father of the theory of evolution – sent a gift to his Danish ...

User comments : 0