Study on seagrass in the Andaman
A recent scientific study on the Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), which has the longest leaves found in Indian waters and is a major carbon sink in the oceans has been published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa. A population decline has been recorded across the range of the grass. Seagrass ecosystem is threatened by trawl fishing, sand mining, coastal construction, sewage and other pollutants. The study findings can be used to protect and conserve the unique system.
A recent study has thrown useful insight on the flowering and fruiting of the Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), which has the longest leaves found in Indian waters and is a major carbon sink in the oceans. The seagrass ecosystem has been largely neglected despite its significant contribution in providing refuge and food for marine life. The present study provides a baseline for further detailed ones. The study by a team of researchers from WCS-India, Dakshin Foundation and Andaman Nicobar Environment Team (ANET) is published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa (JoTT).The observations on the tape seagrass was recorded at Henry Lawrence and Tarmugli island, which are located inside the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park and Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park in South Andaman.
According to Vardhan, a lead author of the paper, “Extensive surveys should be carried out in all potential seagrass meadows of the Andaman & Nicobar Archipelago to understand the phenology of all 11seagrass species. Such research will not only provide new information on the phenology, ecology, and biology of E. acoroides and other seagrass species but also provide empirical and technical support for seagrass meadow conservation in the face of rapid climate change and expanding threats to seagrasses and coastal areas in the Andaman Islands.”
Tall tape seagrass, which is recorded throughout the Indo-Pacific region can grow up to 150 cm. It adds value as one of the major contributors to productivity and biomass of sea meadows. The grass can bury carbon in underwater sediments 40 times faster than tropical forests bury it in the soil. It provides refuge and acts as a feeding area for more than 1,000 species of fish, including fishes that are consumed by man. Green sea turtles and dugongs feed on these species as they provide a high source of nutrition.
Underwater the flowers of E.acoroides look very similar to orchids. Researchers counted shoots, fruits, female flowers and the density per square meter was calculated. Observations from the study of fruiting and flowering establish an important reproductive stage in the life-cycle of the species and open avenues for further seagrass research.
With current knowledge on the species, a population decline has been recorded across its range. Seagrass ecosystem is threatened by trawl fishing, sand mining, coastal construction, sewage and other pollutants. The study findings can be used to protect and conserve the unique system, which is threatened by rapid development that is happening across Indian coastline. Long-term monitoring by State forest departments and research organizations can help in conserving this key species.
Though this was an opportunistic natural history observation, authors point that their study can act as a baseline one and probe hypothesis-driven studies on the phenology, ecology, and biology on often neglected seagrass ecosystem.
Image credits – Vardhan Patankar