Coastal seagresses might only take up less than 0.2 percent of the ocean, but they hold up to 83,000 tons of carbon per square kilometer, more than twice the 30,000 metric tons of carbon per square kilometer a typical forest can trap.
According to the report published in the journal Nature Geoscience, seagrasses account for more than 10 percent of all the carbon buried in the ocean every year, as they have a unique ability to store carbon in their soil and roots. In some instances, seagrass beds had been storing carbon for thousands of years.
Seagrass also protects coastlines from floods and storms, filter out sediment along the coast before it gets into the ocean, and even serves as a habitat for important species of fish and crustaceans.
Pollution, oil spills, and boat propellers are highly damaging to seagrass, often cutting through its roots and raking dead debris back to shore. With this new research indicating the large benefits of seagrass as well as the relatively small amount available across the world’s oceans, it’s likely more environmental marine groups such as the Blue Carbon Initiative and UNESCO will put forth regulations to keep the supply plentiful and out of harm’s way.
Image CC licensed by NOAA Photo Library: Seagrass, California