Seagrass. Grass that grows in the sea. Doesn’t sound particularly impressive, does it? And yet this innocuous looking plant possesses superpowers that can help humanity fight climate breakdown and reach global sustainability before we pass the point of no return.
On climate change alone, seagrass can absorb and store carbon 35x faster than a tropical rainforest. Moreover, it protects coastlines and homes from storm damage and the effects of rising sea levels. For the fishing industry and biodiversity in general, healthy seagrass meadows act as nurseries for myriad species of fish, crustaceans, and even marine mammals, helping support our vital food systems and secure local jobs, including tourism. Then there’s nutrient cycling, improved water quality, stabilisation of sediment. The list goes on…
All told, seagrass meadows along with mangroves and coral reefs are estimated to be worth $125 trillion per year in ecosystem services to humanity*. This figure represents the cost of manmade solutions performing equivalent tasks, such as sucking carbon from the atmosphere through direct capture or building coastal fortifications out of concrete.
But there’s a problem. Due to a variety of pressures over the last century, including nutrient pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural run off, and boat traffic, we’ve lost around 92 percent of seagrass meadows worldwide. As we discovered in our films on illegal river pollution by water companies and rubbish dumped in coastal waters, these issues are all interconnected. A sustainable future requires a holistic plan of action tackling problems in concert, not in isolation.
Enter seagrass champion Evie Furness and her team of superhero marine biologists from Project Seagrass out of the University of Swansea, who are spearheading the UK’s first seagrass restoration site on the Pembrokeshire coast. Tammie and I pedalled Moksha down to their planting site in Dale Bay, where volunteers have already planted 750,000 seedlings out of a total of 1m. The plan is to use Dale as a showcase to elicit funding from both government and the private sector to scale up seagrass restoration nationally to help the country meet its carbon reduction targets for 2030 and 2050.
Evie and her crew of seagrass champions exemplify our belief that transition to a sustainable future starts with ordinary people taking local action and driving change from the bottom up. Like Evie says, “[seagrass] is something that needs shouting about. This is something everybody should know about.”
So let’s get the word out there. Please comment and share!
One Person. One Action.
* Living Planet Report 2018 by the Zoological Society of London and the WWF.
In partnership with: Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, the Crown Estate, Visit Wales, Port of Milford Haven, Sky Ocean Rescue, and the WWF.
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