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Seagrasses in general
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For nature guides: introducing seagrasses
updated Oct 08

Don't step on seagrasses!

  • Seagrasses are delicate. Just like land plants, if we step on the same spot all the time, it will be come 'botak' (bald). Do you remember this happening on a school field where the boys play soccer every day? How about a short cut in a field near your home?

  • Thick layers of seagrasses may conceal uneven surfaces, or hidden objects that might hurt you (e.g., broken glass) or trip you.

  • Many small animals hide among seagrasses. You will squash them if you step on them.

What are seagrasses?
Seagrasses are like the land plants that we are familiar with. They have leaves, stems, roots. They also have flowers and fruits!

Fascinating seagrasses!
Not all seagrasses look like the land grasses we are familiar with. Some of them have different kinds of leaves.

  • How many different kinds of seagrasses can you see around you? Describe their shapes, colours, patterns.

  • Who can find the biggest seagrass? The longest? The smallest?

  • Let's take a closer look at a washed up clump of seagrasses
    See the veins on the leaves, see the roots. What other lifeforms can be find on this clump? Animals? Tiny algae?

Seagrasses are important to the ecosystem

Seagrass meadows provide food:

  • While not many animals can digest living seagrasses, can you guess one animal that CAN eat seagrasses? On land what would eat grass? Yes, a cow. So what would eat SEAgrass? Yes, a SEA cow! Let's see if we can find a dugong feeding trail? Sea turtles also eat seagrasses.
  • Can you find any seagrass leaves that look like they've been nibbled upon? Let's guess what animals could have eaten it.
  • Although few animals can digest seagrasses, the meadows provide food in different ways. Many different kinds of seaweeds are found on seagrasses. These are eaten by many different animals such as slugs, snails, fishes. Let's see what kinds of seaweeds we can find growing among or on the seagrasses? What animals are eating these seaweeds?

Seagrass meadows provide shelter:

  • The seagrass leaves provide hiding places for many animals. These are usually well camouflaged among the leaves. Let's see if we can find some of these animals?
  • Many animals also lay their eggs on seagrass leaves. Let's see if we can find some?
  • The mat of roots provide firm ground for small burrowing animals.

The food chain: These small animals are in turn eaten by bigger animals. Some of them swim in from deeper waters at high tide and we don't see them now at low tide.

Seagrasses and you

  • "Can Eat or Not?" While we can't eat seagrasses, the fruits of the Tape seagrass is edible and is eaten by native people in Australia.
  • In some places, seagrasses are made into useful objects such as rugs and even roofing.

  • Seagrasses are important nurseries for our seafood. What are YOUR favourite seafood? Let's see if we can find them here in this seagrass patch?
    • Be gentle when you look!
    • Crabs, shrimps, baby fishes find food and shelter in our seagrass meadows. When they grow up, some may move into deeper waters where they are caught by fishermen. So to get good fishing, it's important to have good seagrass meadows.

Seagrass myths to dispel

  • Seagrass meadows are NOT rubbishy. They provide shelter and food to a wide variety of animals, many of which are among our favourite seafood. These animals are part of the food chain in ecosystems nearby. They stabilise sediments and keep the water clear for coral reefs to develop nearby. And the stabilised area allows mangroves to eventually grow there. Without seagrasses, other coastal ecosystems nearby can be severely affected.

  • If we had to build a system to do all the things that seagrasses do for us for free, it would cost a lot of money. "The average value of seagrasses for their nutrient cycling services and the raw product they provide has been estimated at US$19,000 per hectare per year (1994). This value would be significantly greater if the other services of seagrasses were included." from Seagrass-Watch
Handling tips

Don't step on the seagrasses
If you HAVE to walk through a stretch of thick seagrasses, go first and carefully test the ground before putting your weight on your foot. Ask the visitors to follow in your footsteps. Tell them to keep to a single file to minimise the damage to the meadow.

Don't dig or rip!
To give visitors a closer look at seagrasses, use pieces of seagrasses that are already broken off or washed up on the shore. Don't rip up living seagrasses that are still rooted to the ground.

Be gentle: Remind visitors to be gentle when looking at seagrasses. Small animals may be hiding among them. Delicate eggs may have been laid upon them.

Don't eat seagrasses or fruits: the water they are in may be unclean.
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