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article imageSeagrass, 'the lungs of the ocean', in environmental threat

By Tim Sandle     Oct 10, 2016 in Environment
Swansea - In a statement some 100 scientists across 28 countries have called for global action to be taken to protect seagrass meadows.
Seagrasses are marine plants, different from seaweed. They take the form of flowering plants (referred to as 'angiosperms') and they form dense underwater beds in shallow water. Globally there are around 60 different species. The term 'seagrass' was probably coined because these saline-tolerant plants possess leaves are long and narrow.
In the seas, seagrasses form extensive beds or meadows. These undersea meadows are of ecological importance. They are home to hundreds of associated species, both other plants and to a diversity of fish and worms. They also hold food sources for many sea birds.
Today many seagrass meadows have been lost or are in decline, mostly as a result of human activities. The rate of decline has been assessed as around two percent per year. This has led to a consortium of scientists and environmentalists making the case for the protection of seagrass meadows around the planet, as the BBC has reported.
Led by Dr. Richard Unsworth of Swansea University (Wales, U.K.), the World Seagrass Association has issued a statement. Here the scientists state: "Seagrass loss also places the viability of our remaining populations of green turtle, dugong and species of seahorse at risk." Adding: "Seagrass loss should not be an option."
In addition to the statement, a recent study, published in the journal PeerJ titled "Decreasing seagrass density negatively influences associated fauna" found that fewer species of fish were found where seagrass was degraded. With this study, which focused on waters around the U.K., areas of reduced seagrass cover experience a a three-fold reduction in the diversity of fish species and invertebrates, including prawns, shrimp, juvenile cod and juvenile plaice.
It is for these reasons that scientists are championing the conservation of seagrass meadows. These areas have variously been described as the "lungs of the sea" or "canaries of the sea" because the condition of the meadows reflects the health of coastal waters.
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