UNEP/GEF Review of Seagrasses in the South China Sea
The centres of seagrass diversity have a clear focus in the seas of East Asia, reaching up to southern Japan, and a second focus of diversity in the Red Sea and East Africa. This pattern is similar to the global distribution of corals and mangroves. The uses of seagrass systems are well known. Hence, they support a rich diversity of species from adjacent systems and provide primary refugia for both economically and ecologically important organisms. Most of the major commercial fisheries in the region occur immediately adjacent to seagrass beds. As an ecotone between coral reefs and mangrove forests in tropical coasts, they mediate the structural and dynamic components of the neighbouring ecosystems. Ironically, seagrass beds in this region are the least studied among the coastal ecosystems. Only in the last 15 years have they been a focus of scientific inquiry and, only in the last 5 years, have they been subjected to any natural resource management. Globally, seagrass systems occupy an area of about 600,000 km2, contributing 12% of the total carbon storage in the ocean. The contribution of seagrass beds of the East Asian seas to these figures is not known.
20 May 2010