After years of decline, some European seagrass meadows show signs of recovery

phys.org | 8/24/2016 | Staff
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European research has found that a third of European seagrass was lost to disease, declining water quality and coastal development, chiefly during the 1970s and 1980s. However, since the late 20th century that decline has been gradually slowing and in some places seagrass meadows are recovering as a result of EU measures to improve water quality. The findings, made by European scientists including Marieke van Katwijk at Radboud University, have been published in Nature Communications.

"Seagrass provides a breeding habitat for fish, while also capturing carbon and enabling sediment to stabilize," says Marieke van Katwijk, an environmentalist. "Without seagrass, water quality declines much more rapidly." The threatened plant is becoming increasingly scarce in Europe. However, this research reveals that there is hope for its future, as seagrass meadows are already showing signs of recovery in some parts of Europe.

Researchers - Data - Sites - Coast - Countries

The researchers used data from 737 sites along the coast of 25 European countries. It even included a map of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands, from 1869. "Seagrass was commercially important to the Netherlands at that time," says Van Katwijk. "It was used for insulation and mattresses. People would wear leather waders to mow the seagrass. In 1869, a civil servant spent the whole summer sailing around the western Wadden Sea, including what was then the Zuider Zee, and used triangulation and church towers to record the seagrass. This resulted in a "Report to the King' with a precise mapping. Unfortunately, the seagrass recorded on that map is now gone. The highest rate of seagrass loss in Europe can be found in the Netherlands."

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