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Global Seagrass Decline Affects Shallow-water Ecosystems

Disappearance of seagrass beds around the world has resulted in sharp decline in important habitats, food sources and sediment stabilizers affecting the shallow-water ecosystems // , according to Frederick Short, researcher of natural resources and marine science, University of New Hampshire.

The disappearance of underwater meadows has deeply affected even the commercially valuable valuable shellfish and fish, waterfowl and other wildlife, water quality, and erosion prevention.

Short, who founded the global monitoring program SeagrassNet in 2001, has been studying eelgrass, a type of seagrass found in the Northern Atlantic, for more than 20 years. While he still conducts research at UNH’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory on the Great Bay Estuary in Durham, he also collaborates with teams of researchers to monitor seagrass health at 45 sites in 17 countries worldwide.

From the Hudson Bay, where the Cree Nation enlisted him to transplant their diminishing eelgrass beds, to the Pacific Island of Palau, Short’s research has produced distressingly similar findings.

“Almost everywhere we start monitoring seagrass, it’s declining,” he says. And while conclusive global results are not yet available, Short is fairly certain the causes are consistent around the world: human impact.

At a state park in Malaysia, for instance, SeagrassNet has charted a decline since 2001 at both a “pristine” site and a less protected site. Satellite imaging showed researchers that the impact was not due to a global force like climate change, but rather to on-shore logging that had increased the level of water-borne sediments at both sites, decreasing light reaching the bottom, where seagrasses grow.

In remote areas of the Hudson and James Bays in sub-Arctic Canada, where members of the Cree Nation noticed their seagrass beds diminishing, Short noted that the beds were in the plume of fresh water released from a nearby Hydro-Queb
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