In Southeast Virginia, a seagrass restoration project began as an experiment and has now grown to prove the resiliency of marine ecosystems.
Marine scientists and volunteers spread nearly 70 million eelgrass seeds across a 200-hectare plot off the eastern shore of Virginia. The grasses have now grown to over 3,600 hectares (8896 acres), the largest seagrass restoration in the world.
Scientists have documented every step of the 20-year growing process and had the ability to see it develop from infancy to adulthood. This project is huge for helping the planet.
Coastal marine ecosystems like mangroves, kelp forest, salt marsh, and seagrass beds have a far greater potential of absorbing CO2 and nitrogen from the atmosphere than any terrestrial forests. Seagrass can capture carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforests, but it currently covers merely 0.2% of the seafloor, so the potential to use more seagrass as a carbon offset is essentially unlimited.
The project meadows sequestered 3,000 metric tons of carbon, the equivalent of the emissions of 653 cars driven for a year, and 600 metric tons of nitrogen at the 20-year mark.
The steps that achieved this spectacular success could be replicated, the researchers say, in other areas of the country.