Seagrass meadows could play a limited, localized role in alleviating ocean acidification in coastal ecosystems, according to new work led by Carnegie’s David Koweek and including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and published in Ecological Applications.
When coal, oil, or gas is burned, the resulting carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere where it is the driving force behind global climate change. But this atmospheric carbon dioxide is also absorbed into the ocean where chemical reactions with the seawater produce carbonic acid, which is corrosive to marine life, particularly to organisms like mussels and oysters that construct their shells and exoskeletons out of calcium carbonate.
Seagrasses provide an important source of food and shelter for marine animals, help fight erosion of the sediments that form the seabed, and filter bacterial pathogens from the water. They also take up carbon dioxide as part of their daytime photosynthetic activity.