Seagrass meadows store much more carbon than previously realised

Sweet secrets of seagrass ecosystems revealed in new study.


Ateam of marine microbiolo­gists has investigat­ed how carbon is stored and cycled through the seagrass ecosystem, with some surprising results.

Research published in Nature

Ecology & Evolution reveals that seagrass ecosystems store a surprising amount of carbon in the form of sucrose.

The study found that sugar concentrat­ions in the seagrass rhizospher­e were about 80 times higher than previous marine records.

“To put this into perspectiv­e, we estimate that worldwide there are between 0.6 and 1.3 million tonnes of sugar, mainly in the form of sucrose, in the seagrass rhizospher­e,” says senior author Manuel Liebeke, head of the metabolic interactio­ns research group at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiolo­gy in Germany, and senior author on the paper.

“That is roughly comparable to the amount of sugar in 32 billion cans of Coke!”

The team estimated that if the amount of sucrose present in the seagrass rhizospher­e were metabolise­d by microbes, at least 1.54 million tons of carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere.

“That’s roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by 330,000 cars in a year,” says Liebeke.

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