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Map of the week – Seagrass distribution

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Map of the week – Seagrass distribution

The European Green Deal strives to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It lays out a roadmap to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions by investing in environmentally friendly technologies, supporting industry to innovate, decarbonising the transportation and energy sectors and ensuring buildings are more energy efficient. It also aims to protect European ecosystems and biodiversity to drive natural CO2 regulation by forests on land and the marine ecosystems in the ocean. Seagrass meadows, a threatened but often overlooked marine ecosystem, are particularly good at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere[1] and form an important component of the European coastal waters.

Seagrasses are flowering plants that form dense meadows in sheltered coastal areas, growing from intertidal zone down to 50 metre depth in clear waters. They provide many ecosystem services by supplying food, oxygen and shelter to many marine species from fish to sea turtles and dugongs, protecting coastline from erosion by absorbing wave energy and filtering man-made polluting nutrients from the ocean[2]. However, they have another ‘superpower’. While they only take up 0.2 percent of the seafloor, they account for an estimated 10 percent of the atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the oceans1 and are able to capture this carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforests[3]. As such, seagrass meadows have enormous potential to help fight climate change. However, seagrasses are very vulnerable to human pressures and in order to realise this potential, there is a need to protect these ecosystems from further degradation and restore the habitats that were lost already.

Fortunately, awareness about the importance of seagrass meadows is growing through projects like the UN International Seagrass Experts Network. In order protect and restore seagrass meadows along European coasts, there is a need to understand where conditions are favourable. This map of the week shows the predicted distribution of Posidinoa oceanica, a seagrass species that lives in the Mediterranean Sea.

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The data in this map were provided by EMODnet Seabed Habitats.