World Seagrass Day is celebrated annually on March 1 to raise awareness about seagrass and its important functions in the marine ecosystem. It was declared by the United Nations General Assembly on May 22, 2022, following a resolution passed by Sri Lanka to emphasize the conservation of seagrass in marine environments. Seagrass is a flowering marine plant present along coastlines worldwide, acting as a crucial source of food for marine life and helping stabilize water quality.
History of World Seagrass Day
Seagrass serves an important role in maintaining the marine ecosystem. Except for Antarctica, various types of seagrass are found on coastlines around the world. From the common eelgrass, shoal grass, star grass, and the like, seagrass provides an important source of food for marine life. It also supplies crucial environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Seagrass evolved around 100 million years ago when most plant life was still found underwater. Over the course of its evolution, it has adapted to living and reproducing in various marine environments, bending and swaying with currents and dispersing its pollen through the water.
Fish, turtles, manatees, plankton, and even sharks get their sustenance from seagrass, among other things. Seagrass also acts as nursery habitats for commercially harvested fish and helps improve the water quality of the environment it inhabits. There are currently 72 recorded types of seagrass in the world, covering an area of around 300,000 square kilometers in 159 countries.
Seagrass sediments contain between 4,200 and 8,400 Tg of organic carbon, which is nearly twice the amount of carbon per area compared with land soil. With the advent and ongoing process of climate change, seagrass’ role as a carbon deposit is much more crucial today, to help sustain sea life and its ecosystem. For one, it stores up to 18% of the world’s oceanic carbon, which is greater than the percentage stored by rainforests. This function makes it a key influence in battling the effects of climate change.
As with most marine resources, seagrass is currently under threat by human activity. A United Nations report stated that up to 7% of seagrass marine habitats are being wiped out worldwide every year; this is equivalent to a football field of seagrass lost every 30 minutes.
This emergency compelled the United Nations, following a resolution by Sri Lanka, to declare a formal World Seagrass Day, to raise awareness on preserving and conserving seagrass around the world. The commemoration was formally announced in 2022.
World Seagrass Day timeline
Seagrass begins to evolve from terrestrial plants.
Up to 90% of all eelgrass in temperate North America is wiped out after succumbing to a mold-like disease, causing the extinction of a type of sea snail.
Around 7.65 million seagrass seeds are planted along the coast of Virginia, U.S., resulting in the growth of up to 6,195 acres in one of the most successful seagrass restoration efforts.
The United Nations declares March 1 as World Seagrass Day.
World Seagrass Day FAQs
Where is the largest seagrass plant in the world?
The world’s largest seagrass plant — which is the size of 28,000 football fields — is located in Western Australia.
What is the difference between seagrass and seaweed?
The main difference is that seagrass has roots, stems, and leaves, while seaweed does not. Seagrass is considered a vascular plant, while seaweed is more of a collection of multicellular algae.
What are the most common human uses of seagrass?
Humans use seagrass to fertilize fields, insulate houses, thatch roofs, weave and hold furniture together, fill mattresses and car seats, e.t.c. Additionally, seagrass supports the commercial fishery industry while also helping absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
How to Observe World Seagrass Day
Read about seagrass
What better way to learn about seagrass, its role, and its plight than to read a material written by the experts? Read articles, books, and reports by marine scientists, conservation foundations, and similar institutions to broaden your knowledge of seagrass.
Support seagrass charities
Support and/or donate to seagrass conservation efforts worldwide. These include such organizations as Project Seagrass and The Ocean Foundation’s SeaGrass Grow program. Your support makes all the difference.
Visit the shore
Travel to the coast and bask in the seagrass-covered waters. Hang out at the beach, swim in the ocean, and see what kinds of seagrass are there. After all, seagrass helps make the view picturesque and natural.
5 Important Facts About Seagrass
Millions depend on seagrass underwater
Seagrass provides a habitat and food for almost 70% of all sea life, from manatees and sea turtles to shellfish and plankton.
An effective carbon absorber
Seagrass is able to absorb carbon up to 35x faster than the Amazon Rainforest.
The sun gives life to all
Like all grassy plants, seagrass needs an ample amount of sunlight to survive, thus making it most visible in sunnier climates and greater depths.
The efficacy of seagrass
A football field’s worth of seagrass is able to absorb 7,500 miles worth of automobile pollutants and treat sewage from 780 people.
An emergency situation
At least 35% of seagrass worldwide has been lost or degraded in the past 40 years, further accentuating the need for conservation.
Why World Seagrass Day is Important
Seagrass keeps the world running
Seagrass plays an important role in maintaining both marine and human ecosystems. Its function as a carbon sink helps absorb carbon particles from the surface and from the sea, which helps improve the quality of the water and lives of those who live around it.
Seagrass is reliable
Aside from its environmental benefits, seagrass also contributes to the economy. Businesses that rely on seagrass for their work benefit from its abundance and quality. Fish that are caught in seagrass-rich environments tend to be healthier.
It spares us the thought of environmental dysfunction
Without seagrass, what would our seas look like? They would be desolate, for sure, which would affect every living thing on the planet.
World Seagrass Day dates