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‘Lungs of the Mediterranean’ in peril

MONASTIR, Tunisia: Underneath the Mediterranean waters off Tunisia, gently waving inexperienced seagrass meadows supply necessary marine habitats for the fishing fleets and an erosion buffer for the seashores the tourism trade depends upon. Much more importantly, seagrass is this kind of key retailer of carbon and manufacturer of oxygen – important to slowing the devastating affects of local weather alternate – that the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) calls it “the lungs” of the ocean.

However, simply as human movements in different places are devastating forests of bushes on land, scientists warn that human task is riding the grass underneath the ocean to destruction at pace – with dire environmental and financial affects. Named Posidonia oceanica after the Greek god of the ocean Poseidon, seagrass spans the Mediterranean seabed from Cyprus to Spain, sucking in carbon and curtailing water acidity.

“Posidonia oceanica… is likely one of the maximum necessary resources of oxygen equipped to coastal waters,” MedWet, a 27-member regional intergovernmental community, says. Tunisia, at the North African sea coast, “has the biggest meadows” of all – spreading over 10,000 sq km, marine ecologist Rym Zakhama-Sraieb stated, pointing to its key carbon-capture position.

The underwater flowering crops take in thrice extra blue carbon — the time period used to explain the elimination of carbon dioxide from the ambience by way of the sea and coastal ecosystems – than a wooded area, and they are able to retailer it for 1000’s of years, she stated. “We want Posidonia to seize a most of carbon,” Zakhama-Sraieb stated.

However a perilous cocktail of rampant air pollution, unlawful fishing the usage of backside trawling nets that rip up the seagrass, and a failure by way of folks to comprehend its life-giving significance is spelling its death.

‘Sea has been destroyed’

Rising at a intensity of as much as 50 m, seagrass supplies safe haven for fish and slows the erosion of coastlines by way of breaking wave swells that will in a different way injury the sandy seashores that vacationers like. Tunisian marine biologist Yassine Ramzi Sghaier stated the grass is a very powerful for a rustic already gripped by way of a grinding financial disaster. “All of Tunisia’s financial task depends upon Posidonia,” Sghaier stated.

“It’s the biggest supplier of jobs,” he claimed, noting that no less than 150,000 individuals are at once hired in fishing and tens of 1000’s within the tourism trade. Destruction has been swift, and substitute gradual. The aquatic plant, often referred to as Neptune grass, grows lower than 5 centimetres a 12 months.

Spaces of seagrass meadows had been slashed by way of greater than part within the Gulf of Gabes, an unlimited space on Tunisia’s jap coast, Sghaier stated, with a 2010 find out about blaming over the top fishing and air pollution. As soon as Posidonia and a wealth of marine species thrived there, however because the Seventies, phosphate factories have poured chemical substances into the ocean, inflicting extra injury to the ecosystem.

Seagrass serves as an important safe haven for fish to reproduce, feed and safe haven. Fishing makes up 13 p.c of Tunisia’s GDP, and just about 40 p.c of it’s achieved round seagrass meadows — and fisherman describe plummeting shares. “The ocean has been destroyed,” stated Mazen Magdiche, who casts his nets from the port of Monastir. “Chemical compounds are dumped in every single place.”

Magdiche calculates his catch is thrice lower than what it used to be 25 years in the past, however stated he had little selection source of revenue. “There are fewer and less fish,” he stated. “You don’t seem to be having a look out for the pursuits of the ocean, however to feed your kids,” he added.

‘Disaster’

Just about 70 p.c of the Tunisian inhabitants lives on 1,400 km of sea coast, and for lots of Posidonia is regarded as mere garbage. When seagrass is washed up onshore, it mixes with sand to shape huge banks, that offer protection to the sea coast from swells and waves, mavens say. However on occasion bulldozers are used to “blank” the seashores, contributing to the acceleration of coastal erosion, with some 44 p.c of seashores already vulnerable to being washed away.

“We’re serving to to make seashores disappear by way of getting rid of the (seagrass) banks,” stated Ahmed Ben Hmida, of Tunisia’s Coastal Coverage and Construction Company. Seashores are a key asset for tourism, which equipped Tunisia with a file 14 p.c of GDP in 2019, and a dwelling for as much as two million folks – a 6th of the inhabitants.

The aquatic plant additionally improves the standard of water, making the seashores extra sexy for vacationers, stated Zakhama-Sraieb. Ben Hmida stated the advent of 4 secure marine zones may just assist Posidonia, however that motion used to be wanted on a a long way wider scale. “If not anything is completed to offer protection to the entire Tunisian Posidonia, it is going to be a disaster,” he stated. – AFP

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