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The Importance of Seagrass in Removing Carbon from the Atmosphere

Humanity is currently in the middle of a war with an invisible enemy, CO2; and unfortunately CO2 is winning. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) CO2 emissions hit a record high in 2011, despite governments (admittedly feeble) attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

China led the way with carbon emissions, but surprisingly Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, is pleased with China’s 10 percent increase in emissions, stating that it could have been a lot worse. “What China has done over such a short period of time to improve energy efficiency and deploy clean energy is already paying major dividends to the global environment.”

As carbon emissions are released by human activities, so nature is actually reducing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010 the US emitted 5.7 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, whilst at the same time US forests and farms removed 1.1 billion tonnes, about 18 percent, from the atmosphere.

The ocean is actually the largest carbon sink, sequestering about 25 percent of global carbon emissions, and whilst seagrass covers less than one percent of the ocean floor, it accounts for10 percent of the carbon trapped in the ocean each year.

In order to prove this theory a team of researchers from the Florida International University studies samples from 946 sites around the world from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mediterranean, to South East Asia.

They found that per acre, seagrass meadows store as much carbon as some forests, yet whereas in forests the carbon is released into the atmosphere when the wood is burned, accounting for about 10-20 percent of annual global emissions, the carbon trapped in sea grass meadows can remain so for millennia.

They also found that seagrass meadows trap far more than 10 percent of the carbon stored in the oceans, that the figure is more likely 20 percent. A great find, up until the news that seagrass meadows are disappearing. As a result of dredging and poor water quality seagrass meadows are one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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