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Scientist warn about loss of Seagrass habitats

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 8:22 PM EST
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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WITN) - It plays an integral part in our coastal ecosystem, and it’s in jeopardy. Scientists say seagrass habitats are declining in North Carolina.

Seagrass plays a crucial role for many fish, crabs, and other shellfish, and it also does a lot more. Dr. Jud Kenworthy is a Seagrass Ecologist. He says seagrass is also important to protect our shoreline and estuaries.

“They provide one of the essential habitats for fish, shellfish, and other types of wildlife,” explained Dr. Kenworthy.

Dr. Joel Fodrie from UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences says that seagrass is very important although people may not realize it. “It helps stabilize our estuaries, stabilizes shorelines, and in some instances, it can help capture carbon from the atmosphere. It helps purify the water,” said Dr. Fodrie.

From 2006 to 2013, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership surveyed parts of the states more than 100,000 acres of seagrass and noticed a nearly 6% decrease in the habitat.

So why should you care? Well, Dr. Kenworthy says these habitats affect dozens of different industries.

“There are lots of parts of our economy that are directly or indirectly affected by losing seagrass. You know there have been a lot of attempts to try and estimate the value of seagrass per acre like farmland, and it’s pretty extraordinary. It’s upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre,” explained Dr. Kenworthy.

Scientists say many factors are contributing to the decline of the habitat but say water quality is one of the biggest. They hope that with their research they can better understand what it will take to protect and restore seagrass, not just here in North Carolina but along the entire Eastern Coast of the U.S.

You can find more information on the survey that was conducted and other research being done by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership here, https://apnep.nc.gov/.

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