Seagrasses and Changing Climate

Seagrasses are a plant species that lives in the ocean all over the world, from the arctic to tropical areas. These plants may be confused with seaweed but are actually closely related to our flowers on land. You may have seen one of the 72 species in pictures with manatees and turtles, or at the Seattle Aquarium in the Puget Sound fish exhibits. Despite being a simple underwater plant they can be a big help in this constant struggle of dealing with climate change.

Like all plants they take in carbon dioxide and give oxygen back to the environment which helps balance the environment, but they can do so much more. According to the New York Times, seagrass has been known to decrease disease in coral reefs, kill off human pathogens, filter pollutants, and provide a safe habitat for many animals. Many fish that eat plants rely on seagrass as a main food source and it can hide some endangered species from lurking predators. The problem that these underwater plants are facing is that their meadows are becoming endangered. Climate change takes a huge toll everywhere, but more importantly on the ocean. Since the ocean is a primary food source for so many countries it means we should protect it, which includes seagrass. Those seagrass beds are disappearing because of things like rising water temperatures, invasive seaweed species, and their own specialized disease.

In the 1930’s North America had a slime mold breakout that wiped out a huge portion of a species called eelgrass. The reason why this mold took out a lot of this plant is because they were starting to be stressed by their environment changing or other factors. This could have been caused by the relatively new automobile industry becoming more popular or the ways of living back in the day were becoming more harmful to the environment. In present day this mold is still around in parts of Europe and could still thrive because climate change puts massive amounts of stress on a lot of living things, including seagrass. Since climate change rises water temperatures, it can change ecosystems by introducing invasive species like some seaweed and drive out native species like eelgrass in the Puget Sound. This can upset the balance in many ecosystems but thankfully it can’t ruin them.

Despite all this bad news efforts have been made here on the Washington Coast to help regrow our seagrass populations. The state has a 2016 target for the growth of eelgrass coverage which were surprisingly passed in 2014. This sudden growth in the Puget Sound showed hope for other parts around the world, and you could help by slowing down the effects of climate change. A popular way to help is carpooling, whether it would be by taking one car to your sports practice or taking public transit to and from work. A good step up is to also look into renewable energy sources like the solar panels we have here at the aquarium or wind energy. The best thing you could do is inform others of what’s happening with nature to spread awareness about the issues at hand. The ocean shouldn’t be left alone to fight our problem, but instead we as a community could try to soften the blow on our marine environment

Categories Science

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