Seagrass meadows are formed by marine phanerogams (or marine angiosperms), commonly known as flowering plants with seeds, that adapted to marine life over 140 million years ago. They are distributed worldwide, found on every continent except Antarctica, with tropical regions hosting the greatest richness of marine phanerogam species, which decrease gradually as you move away from these areas. Seagrasses thrive on sandy or muddy bottoms. In the Canary Islands, the most abundant and representative species is Little Neptune grass or Cymodocea nodosa.
Since 2018, Innoceana has been focusing on safeguarding C. nodosa, known localy as “sebadal”. In the Canary Islands, these species create extensive meadows in shallow sandy regions along the protected shores of the archipelago, except for El Hierro and La Palma islands.
Seagrass meadows have been called “ecosystem engineers” for building habitats for various species. Many of these species attach themselves, feed, find refuge from predators, or reproduce in these ecosystems at different stages of their lives. This biodiversity encompasses charismatic fauna such as the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).
Seagrass meadows are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world.
Despite their immense importance, their populations are decreasing: 50% of C. nodosa meadows have already been lost in the Canary Islands, over the last two decades. The decline can be due to several factors, including coastal development, worsening water quality, destructive fishing practices and uncontrolled anchoring. For all these reasons, C. nodosa seagrass meadows are currently included in the Spanish Catalog of Protected species, in the ‘Vulnerable’ category.
Seagrasses, salt marshes, and mangroves are known as blue carbon ecosystems thanks to their high carbon concentration. They grasp carbon rapidly, namely up to 6 times quicker than tropical forests per unit area, showcasing their significant potential in mitigating climate change effects.
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