seagrass death
Original Published Date: 
Friday, August 9, 2019

Full article issued by Edith Cowan University.

An international research team led by ARC-supported researchers at Edith Cowan University has investigated the huge loss of seagrass that was the result of a marine heatwave in the Shark Bay UNESCO World Heritage in Western Australia.

Halfway up Australia's west coast, the bay is home to the world's largest and most diverse seagrass ecosystem, but since the heatwave during the summer of 2010/11, up to nine million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been released into the atmosphere as a result of seagrass loss—the equivalent to the annual CO2 output of 800,000 homes or 1,600,000 cars driven for 12 months.

Co-lead author and ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient, Dr Oscar Serrano, said the heatwave and subsequent release of carbon dioxide was unprecedented, with more than 20 per cent of meadows lost, equivalent to 1,000km2.

The researchers are highlighting the need to develop strategies to deal with the impact of climate change and extreme weather events, and helping to highlight the importance of seagrass beyond its importance to the marine ecosystem. The research is also informing policy on climate change and the protection of coastal ecosystems.

Photo credit: 

Image: measuring seagrass die off in Shark Bay. Credit: Paul Lavery.