Historical analysis exposes catastrophic seagrass loss for the United Kingdom

Alix Green, Richard Unsworth, Michael Chadwick, Peter Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The spatial extent of seagrass is poorly mapped, and knowledge of historical loss is limited. Here, we collated empirical and qualitative data using systematic review methods to provide unique analysis on seagrass occurrence and loss in the United Kingdom. We document 8,493 ha of recently mapped seagrass in the United Kingdom since 1998. This equates to an estimated 0.9 Mt of carbon, which, in the current carbon market represents about £22 million. Using simple models to estimate seagrass declines triangulated against habitat suitability models, we provide evidence of catastrophic seagrass loss; at least 44% of United Kingdom’s seagrasses have been lost since 1936, 39% since the 1980’s. However, losses over longer time spans may be as high as 92%. Based on these estimates, historical seagrass meadows could have stored 11.5 Mt of carbon and supported approximately 400 million fish. Our results demonstrate the vast scale of losses and highlight the opportunities to restore seagrass to support a range of ecosystems services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number629962
JournalFrontiers in plant science
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021


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