A recent study has discovered that Mediterranean seagrass, a form of underwater seagrass, is capable of trapping plastic debris which would be drifting around. This seagrass is endemic to the Mediterranean region and prevents plastic waste from polluting the bottom of the sea. Referred to as Posidonia oceanica, the seagrass is capable of forming extensive, lush meadows at a depth of 40 meters. Interestingly, the seagrass is also capable of forming fiber-like bundles, which was discovered after researchers sampled the plant clusters from the island of Mallorca between 2018 and 2019.
Mediterranean Seagrass- Samaritan Under Threat of Extinction
While the Mediterranean Seagrass appears to capture plastic fibers within its bundles, it isn’t clear yet if the existence as a natural filter damages the seagrass instead. Sanchez-Vidal, the lead researcher of the study has stated that their understanding regarding such plastic fluxes is still far from being complete. The finding from the study does add to the importance of the conservation of seagrass throughout the world for coastal and oceanic ecosystems. These plants are famously known for improving water quality and also working as a sink for carbon dioxide.
In the island of Mallorca, the Mediterannean seagrass takes the form of Neptune balls which then get washed ashore during storms- which are quite frequent in the area during winter and autumn. But when the weather appears to be calm, the seaballs stay at the bottom of the seafloor. Needless to say, this isn’t exactly the first time someone has decided to research the pollution filtering function of coastal seagrasses. Back in 2020, Chinese scientists decided to research the seagrass just off the coast of Hainan province in Southern China- which trapped microplastics at a rate of 884 particles per kilogram.
The Mediterranean Seagrass is under constant threat due to climate change, and the spread of a massively invasive species. It also gets some unwanted trouble from erosion, pollution, and the increasing reduction of coastal habitats from man-made actions like trawling and dredging. According to studies, the seagrass has already lost almost 50% of its potential initial area since 1960.