Seagrasses are one of the most rapidly declining ecosystems on Earth. These underwater marine coastal plants are losing 7% of their known area per year. This alarming loss was confirmed at the 11th International Seagrass Biology Workshop (ISBW11) in Sanya, China last month, where 100 leading seagrass scientists and conservationists met to discuss and update the global status of this critical habitat.
The results of seagrass research and monitoring by international scientists confirmed the global trend of continued seagrass habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable practices in coastal regions including rapid development and pollution.
Seagrass losses pose a further danger to already-threatened species that depend on seagrass for food and habitat, including sea turtles, dugongs and sea horses. Seagrass habitats are a nursery for many fisheries species and stabilize and filter shallow coastal environments. The food security of coastal people worldwide depends on healthy seagrass meadows. Additionally, ocean carbon is stored in seagrass meadows, preventing its release into the atmosphere where it would contribute to global climate change.
Seagrass scientists will continue their research and advocacy across all regions of the world. They are committed to ensuring that management agencies and governments have the best information available to safeguard seagrass meadows and to slow or halt their decline – a challenge that cannot be met without global public support. The next gathering of seagrass scientists will be at the 12th International Seagrass Biology Workshop in Wales, UK in 2016, but much must be done before then to stem current seagrass habitat losses.
For a summary of seagrass status and health in different regions of the globe, click here.