Deep Breaths: How Seagrass Helps Clean Our Air

Seagrass bed © Paul Naylor

This Clean Air Day, we examine how one of the most effective natural solutions to air pollution is actually found underneath the waves.

It's Clean Air Day, and people across the UK are talking about how we can tackle the problem of air pollution. When it comes to nature-based solutions we often think of planting trees, but surprisingly one of the greatest contributors to air quality is found not on land but under the sea.

Seagrass beds are home to many spectacular species, but are also one of nature's most effective carbon sinks. These are environments that absorb and trap carbon dioxide - a major factor in ocean acidification and global warming. Tropical rainforests are perhaps the best-known example, although these are actually less effective than seagrass beds, salt marshes, and mangroves.

This is partly because carbon sinks store most of their carbon within plants and algae, which release some of their trapped carbon when they die and decompose. In salt water decomposition happens more slowly, so once carbon is trapped it can stay that way for longer. This makes marine carbon sinks like seagrass beds especially vital for keeping our air clean.

With benefits for both humans and wildlife, it's no wonder that seagrass beds were central to securing the three Marine Conservation Zones in our region. Unfortunately they can easily be damaged by activities like dredging and anchoring, so we monitor them to see how they're being affected. If you spot a seagrass bed in our area please contact us with its size and location.

Marine meadows

Our local seagrass beds are havens for a whole host of marine wildlife, from seahorses to cuttlefish. You can discover amazing animals like these, and find out how to support them, through our project Secrets of the Solent.