A UCL led study has highlighted the urgent need to restore seagrass meadows around the UK after calculating as much as 92% of these underwater meadows have been lost in British waters.
Seagrass is a plant that is vital to healthy marine ecosystems, supporting fish stocks, providing breeding grounds for seahorses and helping to absorb and trap carbon from the atmosphere.
The study documents that at least 44% of the UK’s seagrasses have been lost since 1936 alone, with a staggering 39% of that loss occurring since the 1980s. This is 10% higher than the average estimated global loss figure.
The losses, resulting from the impact on coastlines and coastal waters from industry, agriculture and development, is a setback in the fight against global warming and biodiversity decline. While seagrasses cover just 0.1% of the ocean floor worldwide, they can store carbon up to 40 times faster than forests can.
The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, calculates that the UK’s historic seagrass meadows could have stored 11.4 Mt of carbon (worth £37.2m to business in the carbon offset market, equivalent to 3% of the UK’s CO2 emissions in 2017) and supported approximately 400 million fish.
Read the paper: Green AE, Unsworth RKF, Chadwick MA and Jones PJS (2021) Historical Analysis Exposes Catastrophic Seagrass Loss for the United Kingdom. Front. Plant Sci. 12:629962. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.629962