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Introduction | Identification | Impacts | Causes | Actions | More Info
|Why are seagrasses important to coral reefs?
Seagrass beds help to maintain water clarity by trapping fine sediments and other particles in their leaves. Seagrasses also stabilize the bottom with their roots, slowing down water movement and preventing erosion and siltation. These two functions are very important because healthy coral reefs are dependent on clean, clear waters. In addition, seagrass beds provide additional habitat for fish and invertebrates by providing food sources and nurseries grounds for many juvenile reef species. Even some of the most well known endangered animals, such as marine turtles, dugongs and manatees depend on seagrass habitat.
Can damaging or loss of seagrasses also impact local communities and economies?
Seagrass beds provide coastal areas with important ecological functions like soil stability and habitat for many aquatic species. Many of the most important commercial and recreational reef species use seagrass beds for shelter, food, and nursery areas. Removal of seagrasses will therefore decrease the abundance and diversity of locally harvested species. Many cultures harvest molusks for food and ornamental shells for medicinal purposes. Some societies cutback and damage seagrass beds for seaweed farming purposes. It has been reported that in areas where seagrass beds have disappeared, the abundance of animals were reduced by up to 70% (Talbot and Wilkinson 2001). Lastly, coastal reefs will likely be harmed by the removal of seagrasses due to increased siltation. Seagrass beds stabilize sediments in coastal areas and their removal will only increase erosion rates and decrease water clarity. Local communities dependent on the resources provided by healthy reefs will be negatively affected.
Seagrasses are also used for a number of traditional purposes. These include being woven into baskets, stuffing for mattresses, roof thatch, compost for fertilizer, insulation for sound and temperature, and even cigars (DENR 2001). Therefore, as the number of seagrass beds decline, so will their availability for these traditional uses.
|Seagrass beds north of South Pass.
South Pass, Mayotte (ARVAM)|