By Agata Skomar, Marine education specialist at the Gdynia Aquarium NMFRI, member of EMSEA and the Youth4Ocean Forum.
This year marked the start of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development established by the United Nations. EMSEA (European Marine Science Educators Association) is a network of marine science educators acting as one voice in Europe and beyond. Our mission is to act as the hub of the European marine education community to promote and deliver ocean skills to the public by working with scientists, teachers, policymakers and the public. That is why EMSEA would like to draw attention to a not-so-large celebration in maritime education taking place in March each year dedicated to seagrass. "EMSEAgrass Awareness Month" was created to draw attention to the important role of seagrasses in marine ecosystems around the world.
These are some reasons why it is important to educate and protect seagrasses:
- They are home to many species of animals, including around 20% of juvenile fish and thus commercially caught fish,
- They are the "lungs of the sea": 1m2 of seagrass can produce as much as 10 litres of oxygen per day,
- Seagrasses are the third most valuable ecosystem type, with an average annual value of $19,000 per hectare of underwater grassland,
- It is estimated that the well-being of up to 3 billion people worldwide depends on the well-being and productivity of these ecosystems,
- A hectare of underwater meadow can store up to twice as much carbon as an average forest.
Although they have been used by humans for more than 10,000 thousand years, e.g. as fertiliser, mattress fillings, basket weaving and underwater meadows, because they "give" food in the form of fish, they are now endangered.
Because of the actions of people, the water temperature is rising, which has a negative effect on the "life" of the seagrasses. In addition, they are being mechanically destroyed by ships and motorboats. On top of this, aquatic ecosystems are being overrun, which is upsetting their balance. Then there are the threats of fertilisers from agricultural crops causing excess nitrogen and phosphorus, which leads to eutrophication, which leads to single-cell algae blooms causing a reduction in the supply of sunlight to the seagrasses.
Data and information taken from: https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/seagrass-and-seagrass-beds and https://www.projectseagrass.org/why-seagrass/
Acknowledgements: Dominika Wojcieszek, initiator and coordinator of EMSEAgrass