Bet you don’t often think about seagrass, but this powerhouse plant supports thousands of marine creatures, sequesters carbon, cleans water, and generates oxygen — and it’s in trouble. Earth loses around two football pitches of seagrass every single hour, according to Wales-based charity Project Seagrass, and co-founder Richard Unsworth told Mongabay that irregular mapping of seagrass meadows has hindered work to protect the plants. So Project Seagrass released their SeagrassSpotter app, with the hope that instead of a handful of researchers, thousands of citizen scientists will get on board with the conservation effort.
“Saving seagrass means saving our seas,” Project Seagrass says on its website. Seagrasses, not to be confused with seaweed, take up just 0.1 percent of the seafloor but “are responsible for 11 percent of the organic carbon buried in the ocean.” Millions of people depend on seagrass for livelihoods and food. But seagrass meadows “are being lost at the same rate as rainforests and coral reefs,” according to the SeagrassSpotter website. Overfishing, bad water quality, increased sedimentation, trampling, and boating threaten the plants.
Project Seagrass aims to build a more comprehensive picture of seagrass meadows to inspire scientific research and conservation measures with the SeagrassSpotter app, created in association with Swansea University and Cardiff University. People from beachgoers to SCUBA divers to fishers can get in on the action by submitting seagrass sightings.
Unsworth told Mongabay, “We’re asking people visiting the coast or going out to sea — for diving, fishing, kayaking — to keep their eyes out for seagrass so that they can take a picture [to] upload to our website. The more people that get involved the more likely we are to develop a better understanding of the world’s seagrass.”
Ready to help save seagrass? Download the app for iOS or Android. You can also submit seagrass sightings on the SeagrassSpotter website. Project Seagrass is shooting for at least 100,000 records; collected data will be freely available.
Image via Depositphotos