- Date: October 31, 2019
One of the most incredible natural tools in the fight against the climate crisis lives underwater.
Seagrass is a wonder plant that lives in shallow, salty waters around the world and can form vast underwater meadows. Seagrass beds are crucial to the health of our ocean and provide food and shelter for animals such as sea turtles, manatees, and a variety of fish. They also serve as important nurseries for endangered wildlife such as seahorses. About 2.5 acres of seagrass bed can support 80,000 fish.
But this leafy green marvel’s real superpower is the rate at which it captures carbon—a heat-trapping gas that plays a major role in the human-caused climate crisis. Seagrass captures carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. Despite covering only 0.2% of the ocean floor, the plant absorbs an extraordinary 10% of the ocean’s carbon each year.
Protecting seagrass in the United Kingdom
Over the past century, up to 92% of seagrass in the United Kingdom disappeared. WWF is working with Sky Ocean Rescue and Swansea University to bring these remarkable—and vital—underwater meadows back to life.
We teamed up with volunteers to collect 1 million seagrass seeds from various sites around the UK that will be cultivated and planted off the coast of West Wales this winter. The seeds will grow into a nearly five-acre seagrass meadow.
This cutting-edge pilot project creates a model that could lead the way for large-scale seagrass restoration in other locations. WWF is calling on governments to use this method to bring back their lush underwater meadows, too, to restore ocean health and combat climate change.
If we complete projects like this around the globe, we’d see huge planetary benefits. Seagrass creates an important ecosystem that benefits people and wildlife.
Seagrass—and mangroves and coral reefs
We can’t just protect seagrass alone; they’re connected with other coastal ecosystems that need to stay healthy, too, like mangroves and coral reefs. Animals often move among these various habitats through the course of their lives.
And these coastal ecosystems provide crucial services for many developing countries and often underpin coast communities’ livelihoods. These ecosystems act as a natural first line of defense, providing protection from coastal erosion from wave action or major storm surges. Tropical coasts also support many small-scale and commercial coastal finfish and shellfish fisheries.