Seagrass loss drives CO2
There are fresh calls this week for seagrass preservation, with studies showing it has a big contribution to global emissions.
A study by Edith Cowan University (ECU) has found that an increase in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 5 million cars a year has been caused by the loss of seagrass meadows around the Australian coastline since the 1950s.
Around 161,150 hectares of seagrass have been lost from Australian coasts since the 1950s, resulting in a 2 per cent increase in annual carbon dioxide emissions from land-use change.
The stark finding was made possible by new modelling done by marine scientist Cristian Salinas at the Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research at ECU.
He says the finding is significant because seagrass meadows play a vital role in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
“Known as ‘Blue Carbon’, seagrass meadows have been estimated to store CO2 in their soils about 30 times faster than most terrestrial forests,” Mr Salinas said.
“Seagrass meadows have been under constant threat in Australia through coastal development and nutrient run off since the 1960s. On top of that climate change is causing marine heatwaves that are catastrophic to the seagrasses.
“This study serves as a stark reminder of how important these environments are.”
Mr Salinas said the study provided a clear baseline for carbon emissions from seagrass losses in Australia and warned of the need to preserve and restore the meadows. The inclusion of seagrass into the Australian Emission Reduction Fund could contribute to achieve this goal, he said.