A seagrass meadow. Photo: Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research at Edith Cowan University

Meadows of seagrass on the ocean floor are among the planet's most efficient ecosystems for absorbing and storing carbon.

Why it matters: Climate change, industrial and agricultural run-off, and development along coastlines are threatening the world's seagrass meadows.

  • About 161,150 hectares of seagrass have been lost along Australia's coasts since the 1950s, releasing carbon dioxide equivalent to that from 5 million cars each year, according to new research.

What they did: Cristian Salinas of Edith Cowan University and his colleagues compared carbon stored in the sediment of seagrass meadows with areas that no longer had seagrass in western Australia's Cockburn Sound.

  • A loss of seagrass by itself didn't account for the carbon dioxide emitted from the soil, the researchers report in the journal Global Change Biology.
  • Waves, tides and currents disrupted the soil and sand in shallow areas without seagrass, releasing the carbon sequestered in it.
  • They also found seagrass meadows in shallow water stored more carbon than those in deep water, making the nearshore an important area to preserve, Salinas notes.

The big picture: Seagrass meadows — made up of more than 70 species of the marine flowering plant — filter seawater, buffer ocean acidification, regulate carbon and are home to more than 20% of the world's largest fisheries.

  • "In one square meter is the same amount of carbon that can be sequestered in 30-40 square meters of forest," says Salinas.
  • About 7% of the habitat is lost each year, contributing up to 299 Tg of carbon to the atmosphere, according to a June report from the U.N. Environment Programme.
  • The U.N. and others are urging countries to preserve and restore seagrass as one way to address climate change.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 19, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Occidental Petroleum teams with private equity firm to deploy carbon capture tech in U.S.

Image courtesy of Carbon Engineering

Occidental Petroleum has teamed up with Rusheen Capital Management to advance plans by Canada-based Carbon Engineering to build a direct air capture plant in the Permian Basin — and eventually facilities elsewhere, too.

Why it matters: It's a step toward building a plant that the companies say would be the world's largest direct air capture (DAC) facility, with the capacity to remove up to 1 million metric tons of atmospheric CO2 annually.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Wall Street fears stimulus is doomed

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The fight over a new Supreme Court justice will take Washington's partisan bickering to a new level and undermine any chance for needed coronavirus relief measures before November's election, Wall Street analysts say.

What we're hearing: "With the passing of Justice Ginsburg, the level of rhetorical heat has increased, if that seemed even possible," Greg Staples, head of fixed income for the Americas at DWS Group, tells Axios in an email.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 31,346,086 — Total deaths: 965,294— Total recoveries: 21,518,790Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,858,130 — Total deaths: 199,890 — Total recoveries: 2,615,949 — Total tests: 95,841,281Map.
  3. Health: CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air.
  4. Media: Conservative blogger who spread COVID-19 misinformation worked for Fauci's agency.
  5. Politics: House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11.
  6. World: U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections — "The Wake-Up Call" warns the West about the consequences of mishandling a pandemic.

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