By Sharon Atieno
As the World marked the first-ever Seagrass Day on 1st March 2023, the United Nations called for more action to protect this important marine ecosystem.
“The seagrass ecosystem is a perfect example of nature in action, where habitats and the delicate web of life are intertwined in perfect harmony,” Leticia Carvalho, Head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said, calling on the world to prioritize timely, ambitious and coordinated actions that conserve, restore and sustainably manage seagrasses.
Though globally, seagrasses cover over 300,000 square kilometers of the ocean floor, the ecosystem is in danger with UNEP noting that a football field worth of seagrass disappears every 30 minutes, with an estimated seven percent of meadows being lost worldwide each year.
The key drivers for this loss are ocean acidification, coastal development, and rising ocean temperatures due to climate change.
World Seagrass Day, established by the UN General Assembly in a resolution adopted in May 2022, aims to raise awareness about the threats to these ecosystems, and promote their conservation, which is critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
As part of the marine ecosystem, seagrasses store up to 18 percent of the world’s oceanic carbon. They also reduce wave energy, serving as the first line of defense along coasts, protecting communities from the increasing risk of floods and storms.
Additionally, they improve water quality by filtering, cycling, and storing nutrients and pollutants, thus reducing contamination in seafood.
Besides, they are home to fish species and other marine animals including sea turtles and sea horses. Other non-marine animals such as geese and birds also graze on seagrasses during their autumn migration.