Oceans Have Meadows

By Christopher Stephens on Saturday, July 20, 2013
turtle-grass-bed
“The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” —Joseph Conrad

In a Nutshell

The hills may not really have eyes, but the oceans have actual meadows, thanks to a twist of botany. While gymnosperms (flowering plants) dominate the land, Earth’s marine shallows are dominated by seaweeds, a type of macro-algae. However, vast meadows of marine eelgrass exist, and are composed of unique flowering plants in the genus Zostera.

The Whole Bushel

Eelgrass meadows look very similar to hay meadows on the Earth’s terrestrial regions. In fact, the several species of Eelgrass are in fact a different type of flowering plant that simply share the appearance, characteristics and ecological role of grass. What makes Eelgrass so remarkable is the fact that it is a flowering plant growing submerged in salt water. Such an adaptation is extremely rare, considering the massive diversity of land plants found worldwide.

Marine seaweeds are actually macro-algae, and are extremely primitive, slimy plants completely separate from flowering plants such as rose bushes, dandelion’s, true grass, and of course Eelgrass. These plants have failed to conquer the sea almost as much as insects, which lack a single marine species.

Unfortunately, Eel Grass is highly sensitive to disturbance, and eel grass beds are declining due to dredging, pollution and accidental marine environment/human conflict. The author has personally worked on Eelgrass mapping projects in British Columbia, Canada. Eelgrass provides vital food for migratory birds such as the Brant Geese, which must stop to feed in British Columbia en route from Mexico to Alaska.

Show Me The Proof

What is Eelgrass?
Tropical Seagrass Identification