Today’s Solutions: March 31, 2023

Although rainforests are vital for capturing carbon from the atmosphere, their efficiency hardly compares to that of seagrass. According to the United Nations Environment Program, seagrass can capture carbon an incredible 35 times faster than rainforests.

The only problem is seagrass covers just a tiny percentage of the seafloor—a meager 0.2 percent—and seagrass meadows around the world are declining. Still, even with that little coverage, seagrass is accounting for 10 percent of the ocean’s capacity to store carbon.

Considering the carbon-capturing power of seagrass, a new scheme called Seagrass Ocean Rescue is looking to reverse the trend by seeding coastal waters around the UK to create new seagrass beds. Backed by the WWF, the scheme started with an “experimental” 20,000 square meter area in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. That’s where seagrass seeds are planted on the seafloor in hessian bags, held together in lines of rope. As the hessian degrades, the seeds, collected by divers from underwater meadows in waters off the southern coasts of England and Wales, germinate and establish on the ocean bed.

The overall goal is to plant 1 million seeds while inspiring similar projects in other areas around the country. We’ve seen seagrass restoration projects be successful in the past. Just look to the Chesapeake Bay, where a team from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science pioneered mechanical planting. This involves using a specially adapted boat to plant seagrass seedlings directly into the seabed in inlets around the Chesapeake Bay.

They successfully restored seagrass meadows that were destroyed by plant disease and hurricanes in the 1930s. Not only does this boost the bay’s carbon-capturing ability, but it also led to another benefit as bay scallops have successfully been reintroduced to an area where they have been functionally extinct since the 1930s.

There are many reasons why we need to promote more initiatives that boost seagrass. To start with, seagrass supports sustainable fisheries by providing a home for young fish. One-fifth of the world’s biggest fisheries depend on seagrass meadows to act as fish nurseries, Project Seagrass says. In the UK, 50 different species of fish live in or visit seagrass, which is 30 times more sea creatures than nearby habitats. On top of that, seagrass is known to play a key role in stopping coastal erosion.

All in all, this story shows that while reforestation on land is important, we should also be paying more attention to the vegetation that grows below the waves.

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