Grasses – the Shelter of the Seas

We’ve been acting to protect Florida seagrasses in Pasco County on the Nature Coast of Florida, because the Nature Coast boasts the largest and most pristine seagrass beds in the Gulf.Large areas of clear, shallow water are essential for seagrass, and clean water is what’s at stake in Pasco County. But our friends at Deep Sea News have described other challenges for the plants. Like whales, the ancestors of seagrass adapted to life under the water from a very different life on land.”Water bends light. And seagrasses are one plant group that needs a lot of light. Species must deal with the lower intensity of underwater light, as well as the shift in proportions of different wavelengths that penetrate the ocean surface.” “The sea is also salty. At the level of cells and tissues, a huge array of basic molecular processes are controlled by the flow of sodium and potassium ions across membranes. Marine species must possess specific adaptations to grow and thrive amongst high environmental levels of salt.” “Surprise #3, the ocean has waves. Flimsy grasses must be able to hold their ground. Tides and currents also impact reproduction (you don’t want all your gametes to float away) and photosynthesis (a reduced availability of carbon dioxide).” “So life in the sea required seagrasses to address some serious issues that would otherwise be very detrimental to essential biological processes.” [read “I hate plants, but seagrasses are awesome” here]On the Gulf Coast, humans also face the challenges of tidal surge, too much salt, and dirty water. Seagrass is an ally in our struggle to remain on the coast. Help seagrass keep us. And next time you have the chance to stop off in the Nature Coast, it is worth your time to enjoy one of the last undisturbed beds of seagrass in the nation.Scott Anderson is a Healthy Waters Intern

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