Shark Research Unveils Ocean's Power to Combat Climate Change

Figure: The scientists deployed bio-logger tags equipped with cameras on tiger sharks. Review of this footage showed significant time spent in seagrass habitat, and sparked the initial curiosity around the seagrass meadows of The Bahamas. Photo credit: Diego Camejo for Beneath the Waves (2019).

By Shawkat Hossain

Shark research in the Bahamas has resulted in one of the world’s most significant marine discoveries. While evaluating data from camera-equipped tiger sharks across the country, scientists discovered that the sharks spent significant time in seagrass environments. The collaboration of humans and sharks has aided in the remote sensing of the most extensive seagrass ecosystem ever documented.

These grass-like meadows combat climate change by capturing vast amounts of carbon via photosynthesis and safely storing it in their deep root systems beneath the seafloor. The massive discovery of these beds, covering 92,000 km2 (35,521 square miles), makes it one of our planet’s most important global climatic assets.

Austin J. Gallagher (founder of the non-profit ocean research group Beneath the Waves) and Carlos M. Duarte lead this project. “This discovery reminds us that ocean exploration and study are crucial for a healthy future. The ocean’s untapped potential is boundless. Furthermore, this discovery highlights science’s importance in developing resilient communities. And we understood that with a finding of this importance, we needed to bring in the best storytellers in the world,” said Dr Austin J. Gallagher.

INOS has been involved in this project, and as we begin to investigate how important the ocean is in mitigating the effects of global warming, we invite you to learn more about the benefits of seagrass by reading the recently published research entitled ‘Tiger sharks support the characterisation of the world’s largest seagrass ecosystem’ in Nature Communications (Link provided below).

The ocean and our world are interrelated plant and animal species that work together to maintain environmental equilibrium. Tiger sharks and seagrass are two critical species that will aid in our understanding and response to climate change.