Seagrass has always received scant notice when discussing marine egosystems but no more. We now realize that seagrass serves multiple beneficial rolls: in stabilizing coastlines from erosion; providing a sheltering nursery for juvenile fish and marine life; and recent research indicates that seagrass roots are an effective absorber of carbon dioxide and aid in combating climate change.
Benjamin Jones, a founding director of Project Seagrass, describes seagrass beds as “Secret Gardens of Life.” (photo – Project Seagrass)
Seagrass Stores Carbon Dioxide
It is thought that up to 10% of the world’s seagrass is found in Indonesia and the country’s seagrass beds and mangroves may hold 17% of the world’s blue carbon (carbon dioxide sequestered in the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems).
Plus, Indonesia’s seagrass supports as much as half of all fish caught in the marine protected areas of the Coral Triangle, consequently the impact on seagrass from coastal development, oil pollution, agricultural runoff, coral and sand mining and over-fishing needs to be given serious consideration. (photo – Benjamin Jones, Project Seagrass)
Seagrass Conservation in Wakatobi National Park
A conservation program in Wakatobi National Park, in Sulawesi, Indonesia aims at preserving seagrass by safeguarding the surrounding watersheds and monitoring land use. This includes controlling nutrient runoff from the land that contributes to the growth of algae harmful to seagrass. Controlling the overfishing of key fish species that would otherwise feed off the algae is also a necessary part of the program.
Engaging the Local Communities to protect and restore seagrass beds
Years of clearing forests for farmland that has increased agricultural runoff, combined with the loss of coastal mangrove forests has diminished the health of the surrounding seagrass beds. To rectify this condition residents engaged with Project Seagrass and FORKANI a local NGO to determine the best locations in which to plant trees. 4,500 trees have been planted along river banks to date.
“The island as a whole, every community on that island has kind of gotten behind it,” Jones said. “Although they aren’t likely to see the benefits for a number of years, they are really keen to protect their seagrass meadows.”
Discussions regarding over-fishing are another aspect of the program but a very sensitive topic. Village women have become allies because they fish in the seagrass areas. “When we say it has an impact on their food, their income, their children and their future, it’s easy to make them care.”
Read more about Wakatobi and the Project Seagrass program in the Mongabay Series: Indonesian Fisheries.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
See these Related Blue Ocean Articles:
Wakatobi: How a Remote Dive Operation in Sulawesi became an Award-Winning Destination and Model for Sustainability – Henrik Rosen
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