Seagrass communities play a very important role in coastal ecosystems. They support life in more ways than one. They:
– are food sources for many animals such as dugongs, sea turtles and fish.
– provide a feeding place for shorebirds such as egrets.
– have a high primary productivity rate and are vital in nutrient cycling, they also provide a shelter and is a nursery and feeding grounds for shrimps, prawns, fish and crabs, which are commercially important.
– stabilize sediments and stops beach erosion.
– improve water quality, making the seas clearer when the sediments are stabilized.
– also act as oxygen pumps when they photosynthesize.
– stop land-based pollution as they act as nutrient, sediment and chemical filter.
– have a buffering effect (that they filter nutrient and chemical inputs from land and trap the nutrients.), which stops land-based pollution .
– have important biological interactions with coral reef and mangrove habitat and without seagrass communities to trap sediments, the beautiful coral reefs that we admire may not be around!
– are also the 3rd most valuable ecosystem globally, after mangrove and rainforests
So you may ask, why should we monitor these habitats?
Well, monitoring seagrass habitats provides coastal management agencies with information and allows greater confidence in decision-making. You wouldn’t like the government to build the Integrated Resort right over a seagrass habitat, killing all the life within it, would you? Global, regional and local trends also show that this important coastal habitat is in decline, and by monitoring, we would be able to save the habitat.
In addition, seagrasses are considered a bio-indicator, which means that they can “tell” us when major coastal changes are about to happen. This is possible as they are sessile populations – not able to move if they sense danger – and are easily measurable. They cannot run away, but have to adapt to any changes. Thus, by monitoring them, we would be able to observe for any unusual trends and give an early warning for any major coastal changes.