Unsworth et al. 2023. Map and Protect Seagrass for Biodiversity

Unsworth, R. K. F., and B. L. H. Jones. “Map and Protect Seagrass for Biodiversity.” Science 384, no. 6694 (April 26, 2024): 394–394. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.adp0937.

Seagrass meadows—marine ecosystems that support biodiversity and provide a range of other ecosystem services—are globally in decline (1). Many species use seagrass meadows as foraging grounds, spawning grounds, and shelter, including migratory species such as brant geese, the dugong, and the green turtle (2, 3). Conserving these valuable ecosystems will require comprehensive global maps of their locations (4) and a better understanding of the species that depend on them (3).

At the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) COP14 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan in February, parties passed a resolution that, for the first time globally, recognizes the role that seagrasses play in supporting migratory species and places the onus upon signatory states to ensure their conservation (5). Given that no other global convention explicitly considers the value of seagrass for supporting biodiversity, the COP14 declaration should be leveraged to kickstart international conservation action (6). Eighty-six signatory states to the CMS have seagrass within their waters (4).

According to the COP14 resolution, in 2026, signatory states will need to report their progress toward seagrass-related goals, including locating seagrass meadows, identifying the migratory species associated with them, and quantifying the threats and drivers of the habitat. Governments alone are unlikely to have the financial resources to fulfill these actions, but they could facilitate the creation of multi-sector, strategic partnerships to secure funding for seagrass conservation and restoration as well as support for biodiversity and human livelihoods.