Seagrass meadows are one of the most important and overlooked ecosystems on our planet. They provide a vital habitat for a vast array of marine life, from tiny plankton to majestic sea turtles. Not only do seagrass meadows foster biodiversity, they also play a critical role in maintaining ocean health by stabilizing sediments, absorbing carbon dioxide, and producing oxygen.
Yet, seagrass meadows are in danger. Since mapping and monitoring of seagrass beds began in European coastal waters in 1869, 30% have been lost and 68% of the meadows are in decline. Coastal development, pollution and lack of awareness threaten these delicate ecosystems. Mapping, and then using that data to protect seagrass meadows, is crucial to ensuring their survival. Of the four seagrass species found in Europe, restoration is hard: seagrasses are both easily suspectable to disturbances, and often have a low recovery capacity. As a result, a destroyed bed cannot be restored easily.
Protecting Europe’s remaining seagrass meadows can only be done if we map them in their entirety. Traditional high-detail seafloor mapping requires individual divers to log hundreds of hours, laying transect lines, measuring stalk heights, and often taking sediment cores (“coring”), an invasive, time- and labor-intensive method that removes organisms and soil from the site. PlanBlue’s innovative mapping solution involves the use our DiveRay. Equipped with a hyperspectral camera and sensors, it is able to collect high-resolution data on seagrass health and distribution. The data are subsequently analyzed, using machine learning algorithms to provide accurate and detailed information on the seagrass carbon stock. The advantages of this methodology: its speed, making it possible to cover large areas in little time, and being environmentally friendly since it is minimally invasive. Currently, our methodology is being tested on two of the four seagrass species that are found in Europe: Posidonia oceanica and Zostera marina.
Despite their importance, seagrass ecosystems face numerous threats, including the climate crisis, nutrient pollution, and habitat loss. Efforts to protect and map seagrass beds are essential for the well-being of our planet and the countless species that depend on them. PlanBlue is unlocking the potential of blue carbon by ground truthing aerial and satellite imagery. Our advanced seafloor monitoring solution is quicker, more efficient, and offers a higher resolution, providing better data on these precious and important ecosystems.
We combine hyperspectral imaging, precise underwater navigation and AI-based automated data processing to ground-truth satellite, aerial and hydrographic imagery to scale nature-based solutions.
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