Seagrasses Halophila, Syringodium, Thalassia and Thalassodendron) are distributed

Seagrasses are the
marine flowering plants.  They are the
only angiosperms that well-being especially grow in tidal and subtidal marine
environment. Seagrasses belongs  to  families, Hydrocharitaceae and  Potamogetonaceae  and 
they  are  in 
no  way  related 
to  the  terrestrial 
grasses of Poaceae. There are 13 genera and 58 species available all
over the world, from this six genera (Amphibolis, Heterozostera,
Phyllospadix,  Posidonia, Pseudalthenia
and Zostera) are mostly restricted to temperate 
seas  and  the 
remaining  seven  genera 
(Cymodocea,  Enhalus,  Halodule, 
Halophila, Syringodium, Thalassia and Thalassodendron) are distributed
in  tropical seas. 

Seagrasses are submerged flowering plants found in
shallow marine waters, such as bays and lagoons and along the continental shelf
in the Gulf of Mexico. A vital part of the marine ecosystem due to their
productivity level, seagrasses provide food, habitat, and nursery areas for
numerous vertebrate and invertebrate species. The vast biodiversity and
sensitivity to changes in water quality inherent in seagrass communities makes
seagrasses an important species to help determine the overall health of coastal
ecosystems.

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Seagrasses perform numerous functions:

            Stabilizing
the sea bottom

            Providing
food and habitat for other marine organisms

            Maintaining
water quality

            Supporting
local economies

 

Importance
of Seagrasses:

Seagrasses are a vital part of the marine ecosystem.
This article describes some of the Seagrasses are a vital part of the marine
ecosystem. This article describes some of the most important reasons:

The  true  importance 
of  seagrass  meadows 
to  the  coastal 
marine  ecosystem is not fully
understood and generally underestimated. The 
rapidly  expanding  scientific 
knowledge  on  seagrasses 
has  led  to 
a  growing  awareness 
that  seagrasses  are 
valuable  coastal  resources. 
Where seagrasses abound, humans benefit directly and indirectly
from  the 
presence  of  this 
marine  vegetation  (Marten 
and  Carlos,  2000). 
Eventhough, they contribute a smaller part to taxonomy, these
plants  are  important 
for  structuringa  number 
of  ecosystems,  stabilizing 
coastlines, providing food and shelter for diverse marine organisms
and  act as a nursery ground for many
fishes of commercial importance.

 1.  Seagrass meadows enhance the biodiversity and
habitat diversity of coastal waters. It has been estimated that over 153
species of  microalgae (mostly diatoms),
359 species of macroalgae and 178 
species  of  invertebrates 
are  found  on 
the  seagrass  blades 
as  epiphytes and epizootie
(Phillips and McRoy, 1980). 

2.  A Seagrass
meadow also acts as nursery and foraging area for a  number 
of  commercially  and 
recreationally  important  fish 
and  shellfish  and 
other  organisms.  There are about 340 animals including green
turtles which directly feed on the seagrasses and their epiphytes. Besides, the
marine mammal Dugong, solely feeds on seagrasses. 

3.  Seagrasses
improve water quality by acting as roughness elements that deflect currents and
dissipate the kinetic energy of the water and thereby creating a relatively
quiet environment favourable for sediment deposition and retention. With the
help of their well-developed root system, they bind the sediments and stabilize
them. 

4.Some of the species form reef like  structures close to the water  surface 
that  dissipate  the 
wave  energy  before 
it  reaches  the 
shoreline.

5.  Seagrasses
play an important role in carbon and nutrient cycling in the marine
environment.  The large biomass produced
by the seagrasses and their epiphytes act as sink for carbon in the
oceans.  Seagrass meadows are also
involved in nitrogen cycling through nitrogen fixation (eg. Posidonia oceanica
meadows account for an annual input of 57×1010 gN in the Mediterranean). 

6.  Seeds  of 
Enhalus  acoroides  are 
used  as  food 
by  the  coastal 
populations as the nutritional value of the flour derived from the  seeds 
is  comparable  to 
that  of  wheat 
and  rice  in 
terms  of  carbohydrate and protein content and in
energetic value and even  it surpasses
these types of flour in calcium, iron and phosphorous  content 
(Montano  et  al., 
1999).  Coastal people use
rhizomes of Cymodocea sp. 
(nicknamed  as  sea 
sugarcane)  as  food, 
for  the  preparation of salad.

7.  Seagrasses
are used as filling material for mattresses and shock  absorbing materials for the transport  of glasswares. 

8.  Seagrasses
are also used as raw materials in paper industry and in the production of
fertilizer, fodder and feed. Most of the seagrasses  are 
used  extensively  as 
soil  fertilizer  for 
coconut  and  other 
plantations.

9.  A variety of medicines and chemicals are also
prepared from them.  Agar like substance,
zosterin is extracted form Zostera sp. Seagrasses use rhizomes of Cymodocea
sp.  (nicknamed  as 
sea  sugarcane)  as 
food,  for  the 
preparation of salad

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