Researchers have found deep water seagrass bed the size of Switzerland in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) that helps capture and store carbon at a much higher rate compared to terrestrial forest land.
One of the most extensive such grasslands on Earth found 15m below water, it leads to the formation of blue carbon, which refers to organic carbon being captured and stored within the oceans, by seagrass meadows, tidal marshes and mangrove forests.
The deep-water seagrass (Halophila species) contained similar levels of organic carbon levels as found in shallow-water species (e.g. Halodule uninervis), their sediments had about nine times carbon than surrounding bare areas, the researchers found.
“These coastal Blue Carbon ecosystems can sequester or remove carbon from the atmosphere about four times the rate of terrestrial forests on land, and they store about 10 times more carbon in the system itself compared to forest on land,” Jennifer Howard, director of marine climate change at Conservation International, told NPR.
The scientists carried out the study by scuba diving into deep water and taking soil samples, to be compared to other similar carbon collecting ecosystems.
The researchers say that understanding the role these grasses in the carbon cycle needs more studies.