Scientists at Florida International University examined seagrass meadows in Florida Bay. They compared these ecosystems to those in southeastern Brazil where meadows are smaller, waters are cooler, and plant and animal abundance is lower. They found, although Florida Bay’s seagrasses act as carbon sinks, the organisms living among them offset the benefits of seagrass carbon storage by releasing carbon dioxide.

“In seagrass meadows, these two processes happen simultaneously and have opposite effects on carbon sequestration,” said Jason Howard, researcher in FIU’s Marine Education Research Initiative and lead author of the study. “If we want to mitigate the most carbon dioxide emissions, we need to understand these competing processes and choose conservation sites accordingly.”

The world’s seagrasses are disappearing at alarming rates because of grazing, overfishing, pollution and poor management. The findings could aid decision-makers in identifying seagrass meadows with greatest overall carbon dioxide storage potential, so they can target conservation efforts and maximize sequestration.

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