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Seagrass Meadows are Crucial for Food Security

Seagrass Meadows are Crucial for Food Security

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Marine life linked to seagrass habitat in Indonesia’s biodiversity-rich Wakatobi National Park provide at least half of fish-based human food in the area, according to researchers from the United Kingdom.

Seagrass-associated fish landed by a fisherman in the Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. These fish species form an important source of food security. (Photo by: Richard Unsworth & Leanne Cullen-Unsworth)

Seagrass-associated fish landed by a fisherman in the Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. These fish species form an important source of food security.
(Photo by: Richard Unsworth & Leanne Cullen-Unsworth)

But people are catching too many juvenile fish and, together with poor seagrass habitat management, this could undermine the long-term security of this food supply.

“We wanted to undertake a truly interdisciplinary examination of food security and its link to seagrass in an area of the world where marine ecosystem degradation is widespread but subsistence dependency on seafood is very high,” Richard Unsworth of Swansea University told environmentalresearchweb. “We integrated ecological-, social- and market-based data to provide a much broader assessment of these factors than had previously been conducted.”

The Wakatobi National Park is typical of many large marine protected areas in the Coral Triangle, an area also known as the “Amazon of the Seas” because of its biodiversity. The researchers reckon their study has significant implications for how major conservation programs throughout Asia-Pacific and the Coral Triangle consider food security and manage fisheries exploitation.

Unsworth and colleagues from Swansea University and Cardiff University assessed the fish catch in 10 villages in Kaledupa, Indonesia, in early 2013. The fish were caught using a variety of methods – static fyke nets, gill nets, rod and line, and fish traps. The team also examined which species were on sale at the Kaledupa fish market, and surveyed 254 households in 26 villages. Of these interviews, 230 were with Pulo people (local islanders) and 24 with Bajo people, who live on stilted houses in the intertidal region.

Fishermen took nearly 68% of their catches over seagrass habitat, 18% from coral, almost 14% from mixed seagrass and coral, and just under 1% from the deep sea, the team found. A total of 296 species were seen – 106 of these were associated with seagrass habitat for at least some of their lifecycle.

Roughly 99% of Pulo people surveyed ate fish every day, while the figure for Bajo people was 54%. And seagrass-associated fauna made up at least half of local people’s fish-based food.

“Our research really articulates how seagrass systems are very closely associated to people’s livelihoods and daily food needs, yet these habitats fail to be considered in most conservation agendas throughout the coral triangle,” said Unsworth.

Unsworth and colleagues reported their work in Environmental Research Letters (ERL).

(Story and photo courtesy of environmentalresearchweb)

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