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About the Seagrass Meadows

Context:

Scuba divers in Northern Germany are extracting seagrass shoots to replant in barren areas, aiming to combat climate change and revive these ocean carbon sinks.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Seagrass Meadows
  2. Concern: Decline of Seagrass Habitats
  3. Seagrasses in India
  4. Restoration Efforts

About Seagrass Meadows:

  • Seagrass meadows are underwater carpets formed by flowering plants thriving in shallow coastal waters.
  • They require sunlight for photosynthesis and grow in sandy or muddy substrates.
Significance of Seagrass Meadows:
  • Carbon Sequestration: Despite covering only 0.1% of the ocean floor, they are efficient carbon sinks, storing up to 18% of oceanic carbon, aiding in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating global warming.
  • Water Quality Improvement: Seagrass meadows filter pollutants, trap sediments, and prevent erosion, leading to improved water clarity and quality, benefiting marine life and human activities like fishing, tourism, and recreation.
  • Biodiversity and Habitat: These ecosystems support a wide range of marine animals, including fish, turtles, dugongs, crabs, and seahorses, serving as essential habitats and food sources.
  • Coastal Protection: Acting as natural barriers, they protect coastlines from erosion caused by waves and tidal currents.

Concern: Decline of Seagrass Habitats

Report Findings:

  • The “Out of the Blue: The Value of Seagrasses to the Environment and to People” report by UNEP highlights that approximately 7% of seagrass habitat is lost globally each year.
  • Over the past century, nearly 30% of seagrass area worldwide has been lost, indicating a significant decline.
Causes of Seagrass Loss:
  • Construction Impact: The development of ports and marinas can lead to the destruction of seagrass habitats or reduce the amount of sunlight available to them, hindering their growth.
  • Runoff Effects: Nutrient, chemical, and sediment runoff from agriculture, industry, and urban areas can cause eutrophication, algal blooms, and turbidity, suffocating or shading seagrass plants.
  • Climate Stressors: Rising sea temperatures, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events can stress or damage seagrass, altering their distribution and growth patterns.

Seagrasses in India:

  • In India, significant seagrass beds are found along the coastlines of the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay regions on the east coast.
  • The west coast hosts seagrass beds in the Gulf of Kachchh region.
  • In addition, seagrass meadows can be found in the lagoons of islands in Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

Restoration Efforts:

  • Seagrass restoration initiatives have been undertaken in various regions globally to conserve and revive seagrass habitats.
  • Notable efforts include restoration projects in the Baltic Sea (Germany), Chesapeake Bay (USA), and the Gulf of Mannar (India).

-Source: The Hindu


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