Simple and sublime seagrass meadows work naturally to absorb carbon. The leaves cause friction in the water and trap carbon from organic matter in the sediment. Yet industrial activity and pollution has damaged and reduced the extent of the meadows around the UK coast. With the marine environment improving, work is being done to restore patchy seabeds and create new ones, both in the UK and around the world. Take a dip with Tom Heap as he explores the wonders and potential of these plants on the sea floor.
Back in the studio Dr Tamsin Edwards of King's College, London helps Tom calculate just how useful seagrass can be in the fight against climate change.
Listen now on BBC Radio 4
What our expert says
We invited Society Fellow, Professor Vincent Gauci, a Professorial Fellow in Geography and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, to offer some observations on sublime seagrass meadows. His points out some interesting questions to ask:
It is important to focus on the exchange of carbon with the atmosphere and the slow carbon cycle in oceans. There is a lot of dissolved CO2 in sea water. There are two broad approaches and their impacts:
1) Avoiding loss from damaging meadows. If they are lost under water, does the carbon really end up in the atmosphere or does it enter the deep and slow ocean carbon cycle?
2) Creating new meadows. This leads to the question of where can these meadows be created? Also, what are the trade-offs to increasing meadow coverage? How scalable is this? What are the limits to seagrass meadow growth?"
Unsworth, R.K.F, Green A., Chadwick, M. A., Jones, P. (March 2021) Seagrass meadows shrank by 92% in UK waters - restoring them could absorb carbon emissions and boost fish, The Conversation
Holmer, M. (October 2018) We desperately need to store more carbon – seagrass could be the answer, The Conversation
Macreadie, P.I. et al. (2019) The future of Blue Carbon science, Nature Communications 10:3998
About the series
39 ways to save the planet is a new radio series by BBC Radio 4 developed in partnership with the Society and broadcast in 2021. It showcases 39 ideas to relieve the stress that climate change is placing on the Earth. In each 15 minute episode Tom Heap and Dr Tamsin Edwards meet the people behind a fresh and fascinating idea to cut the carbon.
Over the course of 2021, the Society will be producing events and digital content to accompany the series.