We just ran across this interesting article in the New York Times about seagrass. The reason this interests us is because our island is surrounded by large beds of Belize seagrass, which thrive in the shallow waters ringing the island and between patch reefs inside the atoll. We see an incredible amount of marine life in theses underwater seagrass meadows, and many species live there permanently and do not interact with the coral reefs at all. As we snorkel between the reefs we cruise over large expanses of the seagrass, where we see lots of conch, eels, rays, turtles, and fish which live and feed on the grass.
We learned a lot from this article, we didn’t realize how important seagrass is. Seagrass meadows are endangered, and are actually one of the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. Not only do they offer protection for fishes and other creatures, but they also filter seawater to keep it free of pollutants. And not only that, seagrass also locks up vast amounts of carbon so that it doesn’t enter the atmosphere.
But these meadows are disappearing at a rate of a football field every 30 minutes! This is an astonishing rate!
When we snorkel over the seagrass beds, we actually try to avoid them because they harbor stinging hydroids. Those stinging creatures are the reason fishermen come home with tiny “bug bites” all over their ankles if they don’t wear ankle-high booties. When swimming through the meadows, you need to make sure you are far enough away from the blades of grass themselves, because you will get “zinged” all over your neck (and legs if you are not wearing a dive skin). In the past, we weren’t that fond of the seagrass because of these reasons. But we will look at this plant with new respect now!
[Photos by John Holder}