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UK - Seagrass loss around the UK may be much higher than previously thought

The loss of seagrass in the waters around the UK is much higher than previously estimated. A new study published in Frontiers in Plant Science concludes that, with high certainty, at least 44% of the UK's seagrasses have been lost since 1936, of which 39% has been since the 1980s.

This study is one of the first of its kind to bring together seagrass data from diverse sources and give a systematic estimate of the current and historic extent of seagrass, as well as seagrass loss in the UK.

The study was a collaboration between researchers at University College London, Kings College London, and Swansea University.

Seagrasses as climate change superheroes Nature-based solutions are essential to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, and seagrasses are highly suitable candidates for the job. While they cover only 0.1% of the ocean floor worldwide, seagrasses are one of the largest global carbon sinks, storing carbon in marine soils many times faster than terrestrial forests. Healthy seagrasses also support marine biodiversity, including commercially important (such as bass) and charismatic species (such as seahorses), and provide ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, increasing shoreline stability, and supporting coastal livelihoods. But different human activities, such as industrial, agricultural, and coastal development, have led to worldwide declines.

Previous studies had estimated that the worldwide loss of seagrasses is at least 29%, but the current status of many seagrass meadows is unknown. A better knowledge of where losses have occurred would allow us to protect current seagrass meadows and re-plant and restore degraded or lost ones. Dr Alix Green, lead author of the study, says: "Raising the profile of this undervalued ecosystem will undoubtedly support its protection and rejuvenation."

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Read also Historical Analysis Exposes Catastrophic Seagrass Loss for the United Kingdom, Alix E. Green et al., March 4, 2021.

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