Meadows of Seagrass Might Be Ideal Carbon Sinks

Seagrass is one of the most efficient natural carbon storage environments     

Although efforts are already being made to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses, they are not enough by most estimations. It is critical we find ways to drastically reduce the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere.

Carbon sinks are ecosystems capable of taking in and storing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Forest is a moderately efficient carbon sink, its capacity to retain carbon in the forest floor is limited.

New research has found forests are actually only the fifth most efficient ecosystem in the carbon storage cycle behind salt marshes, mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and, best of all, tundra. But rising temperatures are melting the tundra and releasing stored carbon back into the atmosphere, and its capacity to store carbon is decreasing.

While forests and tundras are losing capacity for carbon storage, seagrass may be an effective alternative. Seagrass plants have an excellent capacity as a carbon sink. The oxygen-free environment traps the carbon in dead plant material buried for hundreds of years.

Seagrass meadows are in recession globally. The re-establishment of these meadows would greatly increase the carbon storage potential of our oceans. One hectare of seagrass, correspond to at least ten and as much as forty hectares of dry-land forest. Planting vast areas of seagrass meadow is an incredibly doable task.

There is evidence of recovery where excessive nutrients from fertilizers have been reduced. But more action is needed to avoid further losses and encourage new growth of these ecosystems.

 

 

Photo: “Seagrass bed, Fiji” by Derek Keats is licensed underCC BY 2.0

 

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