Secret GardensBy Kathy Kranking; Photos by Shane Gross / NaturePL.com
Waving beneath the waves are some gardens that might surprise you. No roses, daisies, or tulips here—these gardens are filled with plants called seagrasses.
Seagrass is different from the grass you may have growing in your yard. It’s actually not a grass at all, since it’s able to live in salt water. And it’s not seaweed either. It’s just a very special underwater plant.
Seagrass grows along coasts in most places around the world. There are more than 70 species, and they can be as short as your pinky or three times as tall as you are! The leaves of seagrass come in different shapes. Some look like regular grass. But others may look like ribbons, paddles, or even spaghetti.
Many people have never heard of seagrass or how important it is. But seagrass is a superhero of the sea! For one thing, it can help fight climate change. Here’s how:
High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere heat up the Earth. The ocean absorbs a lot of that carbon dioxide, but too much of it is bad for the ocean and the animals that live in it. Seagrass—ta-da!—takes in carbon dioxide from the water and uses it to grow. Seagrass also gives off oxygen, helping to keep ocean animals healthy. Last but not least, thousands of species of animals depend on seagrass for food and shelter.
Large areas of seagrass are called “seagrass meadows.” Keep reading to see what a seagrass meadow is to the different animals that live in it.
A PLACE TO FIND FOOD
A seagrass meadow is like an underwater restaurant! Some animals dine on the seagrass itself. Others eat plant-like algae (AL-jee) that grow on the seagrass blades. And still other animals come to dine on the diners!
A PLACE TO HAVE YOUNG
A seagrass meadow isn’t just a restaurant. To the animals living there, it can also be a nursery. The seagrass gives some creatures places to lay their eggs. And hiding among the seagrass blades can help young animals stay safe while they grow bigger.
A PLACE TO SAVE
Sadly, many kinds of seagrass meadows are in trouble. Seagrasses face lots of threats, most of them caused by people. Among the worst problems are water pollution and building along coasts. But as people have learned how important seagrass is, they are working hard on ways to save it.