Seascapes are among the most important ecosystems in the world.
They are the backbone of the biosphere and play a key role in controlling global temperature, nutrient cycling, carbon cycles, and biodiversity.
Yet there are currently very few estimates of their extent.
So what is happening to them?
Is it changing?
Or are they simply disappearing?
To find out, the team behind the Seascape Lawn Care Initiative at the University of Queensland in Australia set out to answer these questions.
They used the most recent data available to identify the total number of seascaped plants in the Great Barrier Reef and other areas, the total quantity of carbon stored in them, and the quantity of nutrients stored in each plant.
To do this, the researchers compared their estimates of the total amount of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and magnesium in seawater with known estimates from plant-community modelling models.
They also compared these with known plant-tree biomass and estimated the total biomass of seabirds.
The results show that while the quantity and diversity of seaweed in the reef are changing, the amount of seagrass in the marine ecosystem is not.
For example, in the current data set, the seabird biomass is just 0.02 per cent of the current number.
In contrast, in a model where seabed biomass was estimated at 0.8 per cent, the new data set shows that the seagrs biomass is more than twice as high.
The researchers say this suggests that seabeds are becoming a major food source for other seabelly organisms, and that the nutrient cycling that seagroids depend on may be changing.
What this means is that in the near future, we may be looking at the seas becoming a food source to other marine organisms that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to feed.
Seascapes have been studied in detail in the past, but only in the context of the Great White Shark and the Great Lakes Seascaped Ecosystem.
The researchers say their work shows that there is a great deal of potential for marine biodiversity in seascaping, with a lot of room for improvement.
In the meantime, this research could have important implications for fisheries management.
For more information, visit seascaperslawncare.org.au