Environment

Seagrass rivals forests

MITCHELL WOODCOCK

May 21, 2012

Seagrass can hold as much carbon as the world’s tropical and temperate forests, according to a study to which two University of Western Australia professors contributed.

The research found that despite seagrass only covering 0.2 per cent of the world’s oceans it contributed to 10 per cent of the oceans’ carbon storage.

After studying 946 seagrass meadows across the globe it was found that seagrass held about 83,000 tons of carbon per sqaure kilometre.

UWA professors Gary Kendrick  and Carlos Duarte contributed to the study by Florida International University researcher James Fourqurean.

“These results show that seagrass meadows are key sites for carbon storage and probably are far more important as carbon dioxide sinks than we realised,” Professor  Kendrick said.

Due to dredging and degradation, 29 per cent of all seagrass meadows have been destroyed with a further 1.5 per cent being lost each year.

This made seagrasses one of the most endangered ecosystems.

“The good news is if seagrass meadows are restored they can effectively and rapidly reestablish lost carbon sinks and stores as well providing a range of other valuable ecosystem benefits, including water quality protection, and as an important biodiversity habitat,” Professor Kendrick said.

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