Seagrass meadows are one of the most important ecosystems in our oceans. Worldwide we have about 40 species of seagrass - five of those we can find in the Mediterranean Sea. The species called Neptune Gras is an endemic species in the Med., which means you can only find it here. Sadly, worldwide seagrass meadows are declining due to various threats.
Why are seagrass meadows so important?
Being a plant Seagrass produce a lot of oxygen, which is than distributed into the seawater, the sediment and also into our atmosphere. Therefore, it provides not only sea creatures with oxygen but also us. While producing oxygen they store CO2 in their roots, rhyzom (stem) and leaves. Depending on the seagrass species the CO2 stored in the rhyzom can be enormous and hundreds of years old. A very good example for this incredibly old storage is the Neptune Grass (Pic. 1). These walls can be seen at one of the Dive sites in Plakias, called Souda Beach. Seagrass has much more positive influence on the ecosystem Mediterranean Sea, but we don´t want to give all of them a
Since 2016 our marine Biologist Martina Stockinger is giving presentations in front of the diving school Dive2gether to inform people about this amazing ecosystem and furthermore to raise awareness of their need of protection. There are not only the presentations but also Dive activities to get hands on experience with scientific sampling techniques and a new view on Neptune grass. With these activities we also collect data with the help of recreational divers in order to learn more and to detect changes as soon as they occur.
|Pic. 1 Neptune Gras, rhyzome wall, Souda Beach|
In 2017 Martina Stockinger took samples at the Neptune Grass meadow in front of Paligremnos wall (another one of our lovely dive sites here at the south coast of Crete) for her Master Thesis. This data will give us more insight of the state of the Seagrass meadow and it´s inhabitants. As soon as the data is published in a scientific paper we will also put it here.
|Pic. 2 Martina Stockinger and Michael Holzknecht taking samples|
In 2018 due to the week of environment we held a presentation at the local primary school with the topic Neptune Gras to already create an awareness in the new generations. Our new Marine Biologist Christina Braoun did an amazing job to get the message to the children. Afterwards the kids continued with their yearly beach clean-up. The 10 to 11 year olds got the chance to observe microscopic animals, which live on the seagrass leaves in the Stereomicroscopes. This happened in the Laboratory of the Mare Mundi & Dive2gether Field station Plakias and the kids where enlightened. They not only saw organisms they have not seen before, but they also could see cells of seagrass leaves in detail, filled with chloroplasts. Something they just know out of books.
|Pic. 3 The week of environment with the local primary school|
From the 10th of May to the 10th of July 2018 we had Manuel Marinelli and Pinar Celik form Project Manaia as support at our Marine Field Station. They came with their Sailboat, impressive equipment and loads of know how. Among other things they brought a drone, which took crystal clear picture of our coastline. With those pictures and a specific software Manuel created a fantastic map of all the seagrass meadows from the tip of the Paligremnos peninsula all the way to Dragons nose. This map is of incredible value especially looking at the goal of a Marine Protected, which is our long-term goal. Apart from that he helped us to gather more data of the specific seagrass meadows and to remove an old car battery. We found the car battery at Dragons nose (a boat divesite).
|Pic. 4 Pinar Celic, Manuel Marinelli and Martina Stockinger, Seagrass research|
If you want to be part of Neptune Gras – The Project you have various possibilities. The easiest one is come by and visit our Marine Field Station in Plakias. Visit the free presentations and as a certified diver take part of the Seagrass research activity. If you can´t visit but you want to join and help this special ecosystem feel free to help us with a donation. Or you have some questions regarding seagrass just write us and E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with a reference to Marine Biology.
Written by Martina Stockinger
Edited by Eva Hintschich