Tiger sharks are huge, which is why they don’t shy away from anything. They’re ruthless predators, and they’ll go after anything they can find. Recent research found that tiger sharks didn’t even cringe when faced with strong storms.
That’s why they became the best candidate for the team of scientists, as the possibility of covering a large ocean is the best bet if these creatures are on our side.
Nobody would have thought these ruthless creatures would play such an important role. Recently, their new role could help grow their reputation; they can be called marine biologists.
Lately, researchers have been attaching cameras and trackers to tiger sharks to access hours of footage of the ocean floor. They did this in an effort to better measure the volume of seagrass meadows in the Bahamas.
In this study of Caribbean seagrass, researchers discovered what they say is the world’s largest known ecosystem. The discovery was made over a wide area of up to 92,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) and increased the total known global coverage by more than 40%.
The report’s co-author, Carlos Duarte from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, said, “This finding shows how far we are from having explored the oceans not only in the depths but even in shallow areas.”
Measuring the size of seagrass meadows is problematic because it’s unknown how much they cover and how widespread they are. Estimates say they could be anywhere from 160,000 square kilometers to 1.6 million square kilometers.
It’s hard to map them since some are deep underwater or even beneath the ocean surface, while others can be sparse or mixed in with other plants that appear similar to them.
Seagrass meadows need to be “ground-truthed” by someone – or something – at the site. However, sending human divers, who are expensive, logistically challenging, and very slow, can be problematic.
The reason why tiger sharks are being used is that they are different from other animal species. They are able to reach significant depths, have a large range, and spend time in seagrass meadows.
Moreover, tiger sharks aren’t burdened by the same needs that humans have – like needing a boat to visit deep waters or requiring calm ocean conditions.
Exploring seagrass is vital because seagrass provides shelter for many marine species, as well as feeding grounds. It helps commercial fisheries and acts as a buffer against coastal erosion.
Seagrasses are also well-known for trapping and storing carbon in the seabed, which means they’re an important tool in solving the climate crisis.
The research team hopes their discovery will mean better protection for seagrass in the Bahamas thanks to dredging for coastal development and mining of aragonite.
Nevertheless, it also means there should be better global protections for seagrass, as well as other coastal ecosystems, and the agencies will spend more time curating rules to protect these areas.
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