Seagrass can help combat climate change

Seagrasses can store twice as much carbon as forests

WASHINGTON | May 24, 2012

"seagrass beds have been storing carbon for thousands of years"

—James Fourqurean

Beds of ocean seagrasses can store twice as much carbon as the world's forests and are a vital part of the solution to climate change, U.S. scientists say.

An article in the journal Nature Geoscience has reported the first global analysis of carbon stored in seagrasses that determined coastal seagrass beds store up to 225,000 tons of carbon per square miles, mostly in the soils beneath them.

In comparison, a typical terrestrial forest stores about 82,000 tons of carbon per square mile, most of which is in the form of wood.

Although seagrass meadows make up less than 0.2 percent of the world's oceans, they are responsible for more than 10 percent of all carbon buried annually in the sea, researchers said.

"Seagrasses only take up a small percentage of global coastal area, but this assessment shows that they're a dynamic ecosystem for carbon transformation," lead study author James Fourqurean of Florida International University said.

"Seagrasses have the unique ability to continue to store carbon in their roots and soil in coastal seas," he said in a release from the National Science Foundation. "We found places where seagrass beds have been storing carbon for thousands of years."

Seagrass meadows store 90 percent of their carbon in the soil and continue to build on it for centuries, the researchers found.

Conserving and restoring seagrass meadows may reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon stores while delivering important "ecosystem services" to coastal communities, they said.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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