Restoring seagrass beds for the UN Sustainable Development Goals: how UK experts are doing it

Experts at the forefront of UK coastal seagrass restoration efforts say this amazing plant’s contribution to the most important to-do list in human history should be reassessed.

Value of seagrasses in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

(Photo: Benjamin L. Jones/Unsplash)

The world’s only underwater flowering plant, sea grass, is essential for biodiversity and also absorbs carbon dioxide to fight climate change, according to ScienceDaily.

Researchers from Swansea University have made their point in a new paper recently published in the journal Science, considering the value of seagrass beyond carbon in the context of the Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals United, which are a common goal to build a better and more sustainable world. coming.

Indeed, the maintenance and restoration of seagrass meadows make it possible to achieve 16 of the 17 objectives.

Authors Dr Richard Unsworth and Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth pointed out that interest in using seagrass beds as a natural solution to climate change and biodiversity recovery is driven by the planetary emergency.

However, seagrass beds are very susceptible to stress and, in many places, to the danger of loss and degradation.

According to Dr Unsworth, who oversees the University team and founding director of marine conservation organization Project Seagrass, there is growing interest in using seagrass as a natural alternative to greenhouse gas mitigation. Greenhouse.

But if the ecological health of seagrasses is still under threat, it raises questions about their potential to help find natural solutions to biodiversity and climate emergencies.

The team’s most recent study looked at the important ecological function of seagrasses and how reconsidering their protection is essential to understanding how they are helping to fight our global catastrophe.

However, given the scale of the interventions needed, there are significant ecological, social and legal challenges and bottlenecks to seagrass restoration and protection.

Current developments in molecular ecology, remote sensing, artificial intelligence and marine robots all offer new opportunities to address conservation issues in challenging areas on a global scale that have never been seen before. possible.

Only by looking beyond the carbon and seeing the true value of seagrass beds can we put them on a path to net gain and eventually zero loss.

Read also : Seagrass: a fishing ground as a reliable source of food for fishermen in poor countries

Importance of seagrasses

Because they modify their environment to produce distinctive habitats, seagrasses are sometimes called foundational plant species or ecosystem engineers, according to Ocean.

In addition to improving seagrass conditions, these changes significantly impact other creatures, serve ecological purposes, and provide a range of services to people.

Humans have been using seagrass beds for over 10,000 years.

They have also been used to fill beds and even automobile seats, thatch roofs, weave furniture, fertilize fields and insulate homes.

However, what they do in their natural environment is what helps people and the ocean the most.

Sea grasses help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, support commercial fishing and biodiversity, and clean nearby water.

Because they provide a leafy underwater canopy that is home to small invertebrates (including crabs, shrimp, and other types of crustaceans), small fish, and juveniles of larger fish species, seagrasses are sometimes called nursery environments.

Like lichens and Spanish moss on trees, several types of bacteria, invertebrates, and microalgae (like diatoms) grow directly on the fronds of living seagrass called “epiphytes.”

Other creatures, such as sponges, clams, polychaete worms and sea anemones, thrive between the blades or in the sediment.

Larger creatures are attracted to seagrass beds due to the accumulation of smaller organisms inside and on the blades of the seagrass beds.

The result is that seagrass beds can harbor a wide variety of fish, sharks, turtles, marine mammals (dugongs and manatees), molluscs (octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, snails, bivalves), sponges, crustaceans (shrimps, crabs, copepods, isopods , and amphipods), polychaetes, sea urchins and sea anemones.

Related article: Seagrass beds have been found to continue to release methane even after death

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