Seagrass fields in the Baltic Sea, which are enormous natural sinks that hold millions of tonnes of carbon but are rapidly disappearing due to deteriorating water quality, climate change, and illness, are being worked on by scientists in Germany.
The Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel estimates that the plant covers over 300 square kilometres in the Baltic region and stores three to twelve megatons of carbon.
A postdoctoral researcher at the centre named Angela Stevenson told Reuters that seagrass holds onto the carbon ‘for years to millennia.’ ‘Conserving these systems, making sure that that CO2 does not get re-emitted and further contribute to these emissions, is a significant issue to think about here.’
Stevenson and her colleagues have planted a test field in the Kiel in Germany using seeds and single-shoot transplants from a nearby natural meadow in order to determine which cultivation techniques could be the most effective for restoring seagrass fields.
By subjecting the plants to heatwaves across generations, the team is also evaluating how well the plants can withstand the heat.
‘If the temperatures go up to 26 degrees Celsius and above … for months on end, which we might see in the future with climate change, then that could really pose an issue for the whole system. It may entirely die,’ said Stevenson.
Europe alone lost one third of its seagrass areas between the 1860s and 2016, according to a 2019 study.