Save seagrass, urges sci­en­tist

Southern Telegraph - - News - Clare Ne­gus

The de­struc­tion of seagrass mead­ows like those found in Man­gles Bay should at­tract op­po­si­tion from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists sim­i­lar to de­for­esta­tion protests, Edith Cowan Univer­sity re­search fel­low Os­car Ser­rano has told the Tele­graph.

Sci­en­tists have ad­vo­cated the pro­tec­tion of seagrass as a cru­cial part of the fight against global warm­ing be­cause seagrass mead­ows are 35 times more ef­fi­cient at se­ques­ter­ing car­bon diox­ide than rain­forests.

About 80 per cent of Cock­burn Sound’s seagrass has been lost to coastal de­vel­op­ment and an­other 5ha of Man­gles Bay’s seagrass is ex­pected to be de­stroyed in the con­struc­tion of the con­tro­ver­sial ma­rina.

Man­gles Bay Ma­rina pro­po­nents, Land­Corp and Cedar Woods, have com­mit­ted to re­plant­ing and es­tab­lish­ing twice the amount of the bay’s seagrass which is lost to the de­vel­op­ment.

Dr Ser­rano said forests, while more vis­i­ble, were not as ef­fec­tive in cap­tur­ing and stor­ing car­bon as coastal ecosys­tems which had been ac­cu­mu­lat­ing car­bon diox­ide for thou­sands of years.

He said the car­bon diox­ide stored by seagrass in the coastal sed­i­ments was re­leased back into the at­mos­phere when the plants were de­stroyed or dis­turbed in coastal de­vel­op­ments. “All the work the seagrass has been do­ing for mil­len­nia is com­pletely lost,” he said.

He said re­planted seagrass would take five to 10 years to re­cover and warned that re­plant­ing seagrass by seeds or roots had a low suc­cess rate.

Dr Ser­rano said not enough was be­ing done to pro­tect WA’s coastal ecosys­tems which pro­vide a “far larger ben­e­fit than we can imag­ine”.

“Peo­ple who love na­ture and sci­en­tists should com­mu­ni­cate to politi­cians and pol­icy mak­ers to make them re­alise th­ese ecosys­tems are very im­por­tant and, if we lose them, the loss will be much big­ger than the ben­e­fits of a ma­rina,” he said.

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