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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Underwater seagrass beds dial back polluted seawater

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February 16 2017 ScienceDaily  full article here

Seagrass meadows — bountiful underwater gardens that nestle close to shore and are the most common coastal ecosystem on Earth — can reduce bacterial exposure for corals, other sea creatures and humans, according to new research.

…While research is beginning to reveal the mechanisms driving bacterial-load reductions in these ecosystems, it is evident that an intact seagrass ecosystem — home to filter-feeders like bivalves, sponges, tunicates (marine invertebrates) — removes more bacteria from water.

As seagrass meadows and coral reefs are usually linked habitats, Lamb’s team examined more than 8,000 reef-building corals for disease. The researchers found lower levels — by twofold — of disease on reefs with adjacent seagrass beds than on reefs without nearby grasses. “Millions of people rely on healthy coral reefs for food, income and cultural value,” said Lamb….

Joleah Lamb et al. Seagrass Ecosystems Reduce Exposure to Bacterial Pathogens of Humans, Fishes and Invertebrates. Science, 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1956

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