The annual celebration of World Seagrass Day on March 1 aims to increase awareness of seagrass and its vital role in the marine ecosystem. The United Nations General Assembly declared it on May 22, 2022, after Sri Lanka passed a resolution emphasising the conservation of seagrass in marine environments. Seagrass is a flowering marine plant widespread along the world’s coastlines, serving as an essential food source for marine life and helping to maintain water quality.
The background of World Seagrass Day
Seagrass plays a vital role in the maintenance of the marine ecosystem. Aside from Antarctica, various types of seagrass can be found along the coastlines of every continent on Earth. Seagrass, which includes eelgrass, shoal grass, and star grass, is an essential food source for marine life. It also supplies crucial environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Seagrass evolved approximately 100 million years ago, when the majority of plant life was still submerged. It has evolved to live and reproduce in a variety of marine environments, bending and swaying with the currents and dispersing pollen through the water.
In addition to fish, turtles, manatees, plankton, and even sharks, seagrass is an important food source. Additionally, seagrass serves as nursery habitats for commercially harvested fish and improves the water quality of the ecosystem in which it grows. Currently, 72 species of seagrass have been identified, covering an area of approximately 300,000 square kilometres in 159 countries.
Sediments from seagrass contain between 4,200 and 8,400 Tg of organic carbon, which is nearly twice as much carbon per unit area as soil from land. With the onset and continuation of climate change, the importance of seagrass as a carbon sink to sustain marine life and its ecosystem has increased significantly. First of all, it stores up to 18 percent of the world’s oceanic carbon, which is greater than the amount stored by rainforests. This characteristic makes it a crucial factor in combating the effects of climate change.
As is the case with the majority of marine resources, seagrass is currently threatened by human activity. According to a United Nations report, up to 7 percent of seagrass marine habitats are being lost annually; this is equivalent to a football field of seagrass being lost every 30 minutes.
This emergency compelled the United Nations, in response to a resolution by Sri Lanka, to declare a formal World Seagrass Day in order to raise global awareness regarding the preservation and conservation of seagrass. In 2022, the commemoration was formally announced.
5 essential facts about seagrass
Seagrass provides a habitat and food for nearly 70 percent of all marine life, including manatees, sea turtles, shellfish, and plankton.
Seagrass can absorb carbon up to 35 times more quickly than the Amazon Rainforest.
Seagrass, like all grasses, requires an abundance of sunlight to survive, so it is most prevalent in sunny climates and greater depths.
A football field’s worth of seagrass can absorb pollutants from 7,500 miles of automobile travel and treat the sewage of 780 people.
At least 35 percent of the world’s seagrass has been lost or degraded over the past four decades, further emphasising the need for conservation.
WORLD SEAGRASS DAY DATES