NC - Threats to seagrass could cost state's economy millions

Submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, also referred to as seagrass, provides critical ecosystem services in coastal waters.

Submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, also referred to as seagrass, provides critical ecosystem services in coastal waters.

SAV protects against shoreline erosion, improves water quality and provides habitat for fish and waterfowl. It is critically important to the wellbeing of both estuarine ecosystems and coastal communities.

North Carolina is home to the highest seagrass acreage on the Atlantic seaboard. But within the state and around the world, SAV is under threat. Some estimates say that since 1980, the world has lost nearly a third of its total seagrass. The decline has accelerated in recent years due to human activity such as habitat destruction and pollution. The loss in SAV not only presents issues within the ecosystem, but comes with hefty economic costs.

A new report from Duke University and North Carolina State University details the economic losses associated with the decline of SAV in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary. The report was prepared using funding from the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, or APNEP. A conservative estimate from the study projects that losing 5% of submerged aquatic vegetation over the next 10 years could cost the state $8.6 million.

Poor water quality is one of the primary threats to SAV.

“SAV is critical to maintaining good water quality in the estuary,” said Dr. Timothy Ellis, quantitative ecologist for APNEP. “But it also requires good water quality to grow.”

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