eelgrass not lifeline climate

Danish research has found that eelgrass and seaweed are not a lifeline for our climate as has been promoted by previous research and eNGOs. Photo: Peter Bondo Christensn/Arhus University

Recent claims regarding the significant role of eelgrass in carbon retention and its impact on climate change have been challenged by Danish marine scientists at Arhus University.

A consensus conference convened by twenty-eight researchers and administrators from various Danish institutions delved into the role of eelgrass and seaweed in carbon and nitrogen turnover in marine ecosystems.

Contrary to popular belief, eelgrass beds do not serve as substantial carbon sinks. Professor Bo Barker Jørgensen from Aarhus University clarified that while eelgrass and seaweed absorb carbon through photosynthesis, the majority of the bound carbon is released during decomposition. This indicates that these plants do not significantly alter the atmospheric CO2 content.

The debate surrounding eelgrass’s carbon retention capabilities has been further complicated by a confusion between carbon “pools” and “velocities.” While the carbon pool represents past inputs and losses, it is the carbon velocity, or the rate of carbon capture and release over time, that is pertinent in climate contexts.

Misunderstandings surrounding eelgrass’s role in carbon retention have led to erroneous claims by various organizations. The assembled research group aims to rectify these misconceptions and critically evaluate scientific literature to ensure accurate information dissemination.

Despite the debunking of eelgrass’s carbon storage potential, its importance in supporting biodiversity remains undisputed. However, eelgrass distribution has declined significantly, necessitating urgent efforts to promote its regrowth.

Professor Karen Timmermann from the Technical University of Denmark stressed the need for immediate action to reduce nutrient discharge into marine environments and halt destructive fishing practices. She emphasised that preserving and protecting existing eelgrass beds is paramount for marine conservation.

In light of ongoing efforts to restore eelgrass beds, Professor Mogens Flindt from the University of Southern Denmark underscored the importance of adhering to established guidelines to ensure successful planting initiatives.

The consensus conference concluded that while planting eelgrass may aid in marine restoration efforts, it cannot substitute comprehensive land-based environmental improvements. A concerted effort to reduce nutrient runoff from land is imperative to safeguarding marine ecosystems.

The conference, titled “Importance of Marine Vegetation on Carbon and Nitrogen Retention in Danish Waters,” was supported by various institutions and underscores the collaborative effort to address pressing environmental challenges.

With a clearer understanding of eelgrass’s role in carbon retention, researchers and policymakers can devise more effective strategies to mitigate climate change and preserve marine biodiversity.


Source: Press Release

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