Seagrasses cover nearly 80,000 square miles of shallow and subtidal coastlines such as bays and estuaries around the world. They help prevent erosion by cushioning the force of the waves and currents hitting the shoreline. They also act as carbon sinks for as much as 15 percent of the total surplus carbon fixed in the oceans.
Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is the dominant seagrass in the northern hemisphere, though it’s not actually a true grass but rather a flowering plant that lives underwater. A monocot like tulips and orchids, eelgrass serves as a nursery for several species of fish and invertebrates such as marine worms and sea anemones. In addition, it also provides food for several species of fish, birds and shellfish. Eelgrass absorbs nutrients and pollutants, improving water quality, and it also builds up sediment by preventing erosion. Eelgrass also needs more light than any other marine plant to thrive, so water quality can affect the quality of this plant habitat. By sequencing the genome of eelgrass, researchers hope to learn more about the effects of climate change on this key marine monocot ecosystem.
Principal Investigators: Jeanine Olsen (University of Groningen)
Program: CSP 2009