Saving our underwater meadows

Citizens are coming to the rescue of endangered seagrass meadows, writes Nick Dowson

Citizens are coming to the rescue of endangered seagrass meadows – a vital habitat for species as diverse as seahorses, turtles and even Atlantic cod – in a new global citizen-science programme that is mapping vital information about the species.

An online platform, SeagrassSpotter, helps volunteers to locate and document the meadows, collecting data and photos that can be used for targeted conservation efforts. Complete with a ‘Pokémon-Go’ style smartphone app, this provides scientists with reliable, geo-referenced data. So far, over 750 observations have been recorded from around the world.

Seagrass meadows serve as nurseries for many fish species and, along with mangrove and salt-marsh habitats, play a key role in locking up carbon and storing it in ocean sediments. They are under threat from disease, human pollution and disturbance from dredging and development.

While no substitute for government protection, projects such as this will be vital to fill in gaps in our knowledge and protect key habitats in the future.