New discovery brings Maldives seagrass species to seven

Researchers in Maldives have discovered a species of seagrass that has never been found in the island nation before.

Experts associated with the Blue Marine Foundation’s Resilient Reefs Project say the species was identified from a photo taken at the Addu Nature Park, a designated conservation area in the southernmost atoll of Addu.

They identified it as the seagrass species, Cymodocea serrulata.

The new discovery brings the number of seagrass species recorded from the Maldives to seven.

“There is a high probability that there will be more species in the Maldives, so get your snorkels ready to be a #seagrasscitizenscientist when the lockdown is over,” an announcement made by the foundation on Facebook read.

Calls to protect the seagrass in Maldives have gained momentum in recent years. A dedicated campaign was launched a year ago.

Led by UK-based environmental charity Blue Marine Foundation and Six Senses Laamu’s Maldives Underwater Initiative team, the Protect Maldives Seagrass campaign has convinced more than 30 high-end resorts to protect their seagrass meadows. They have collectively pledged to protect over 830,000 square metres of seagrass around resort islands across the country.

The Maldives’ tourism ministry has also come out in support of the campaign to stop the removal of seagrass beds.

Seagrass is the unsung hero of the Maldivian marine ecosystem. It prevents beach erosion, fights climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, and supports fisheries by providing a sanctuary for juvenile coral reef fish. Notably, seagrass is also the primary food source of green sea turtles, a critically endangered sub-species of sea turtles.

Despite being one of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet, seagrass is considered unsightly, and is often deliberately removed.

Six Senses Laamu, the resort that inspired the campaign, has been protecting their seagrass since 2017 and has successfully shown that seagrass and tourism can coexist.

The Protect Maldives Seagrass campaign, launched on World Seagrass Day on March 1, 2019, brought together resorts, international advocacy and conservation groups such as Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace and Manta Trust, all advocating for its protection.

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