April 10, 2013

Seagrass Blue Carbon Blues

As one of the outputs of the Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis workshop on “Australian seagrass habitats: Condition and threats”, I composed a song which Kieryn Kilminster from Western Australia Department of Water was able to convince her husband, Gary Cox, to set to music and then record. It turned out to be Kieryn and Gary’s tenth wedding anniversary, which they were spending on opposite sides of the Australian continent, so Gary, a talented musician, was very generous to work on this song while missing his wife.

Seagrass Blue Carbon Blues

Seagrass Blue Carbon Blues

The scientific background to the song is the concept of ‘Blue Carbon‘. Blue carbon is the term given to the ability of oceanic plants to absorb some of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning. Coastal vegetation like seagrasses, mangroves and salt marshes can form productive ecosystems and the carbon that is sequestered from the atmosphere can be trapped and buried as peat (Fourqurean et al., 2012). The reason that we may have the blues is the global loss of seagrass meadows (Waycott et al., 2009), just when we need their blue carbon sequestration the most. Seagrasses have a high light requirement (in excess of ten percent surface light). The depth maxima of seagrasses often approximates the depth that a white circular disc (Secchi) can be seen when lowered over the side of a boat (Dennison et al., 1993). Seagrass are often known as the coastal canary, due to their high light thresholds, and we have made the case that we should take decisive action when seagrasses are lost (Orth et al., 2006).

Seagrass Blue Carbon Blues

We keep pumping out CO2

What’s a person to do?

Well don’t let the problem fester

You just got to sequester

Suck up that bad gas

Turn it into seagrass biomass

So the seagrass meadows we cannot lose

Or you’re goin’ get the seagrass blue carbon blues.


Seagrasses shed leaves and bury roots

For blue carbon, that really suits

But the problem comes along

When we get the water quality wrong

Seagrasses need a whole lotta light

The secchi has to remain in sight

Dirty water’s real bad news

It gives you the seagrass blue carbon blues.


Seagrasses are the coastal canary

When they start to go, you better be wary

When seagrasses decline

It ain’t so fine

Dugongs, turtles, crabs and fish

Seagrasses they would really miss

They have everything to lose

They’d be singing the seagrass blue carbon blues.


We gotta act right now

Let me tell you just how

We protect and conserve

We do not lose our nerve

To give seagrasses a chance

We gotta take a stance

It’s up to you to choose

Or we’ll be singing the bluegrass carbon blues.



Dennison WC, Orth RJ, Moore KA, Stevenson JC, Carter V, Kollar S, Bergstrom PW, Batiuk RA (1993) Assessing Water-Quality with Submersed Aquatic Vegetation. Bioscience 43(2):86–94

Fourqurean, JW, Duarte, CM, Kennedy, N, Marbà, N, Holmer, M, Angel Mateo, M, Apostolaki, ET, Kendrick, GA, Krause-Jensen, D, McGlathery, KJ, Serrano, O. (2012)  Seagrass ecosystems as a globally significant carbon stock. Nature Geoscience 5, 505–509

Orth RJ, Carruthers TJB, Dennison WC, Duarte CM, Fourqurean JW, Heck KLJ, Hughes AR, Kendrick GA, Kenworthy WJ, Olyarnik S, Short FT, Waycott M, Williams SL (2006) A Global Crisis for Seagrass Ecosystems. Bioscience 56(12):987–996

Waycott M, Duarte CM, Carruthers TJB, Orth RJ, Dennison WC, Olyarnike S, Calladine A, Fourqurean JW, Heck KLJ, Hughese AR, Kendricki GA, Kenworthy WJ, Short FT, Williams SL (2009) Accelerating loss of seagrasses across the globe threatens coastal ecosystems. PNAS 106(30):12377–12381

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About the author
Dr Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Bill_Dennison/
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Filed under: Science Communication — Tags: , , , , , — Bill Dennison @ 9:00 am


  1. […] Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (ACEAS), we created a seagrass song and video: Seagrass Blue Carbon Blues in an attempt to expand our dissemination of seagrass issues. The song includes concepts of water […]

    Pingback by Scientific synthesis at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science: Part 4–Moving beyond synthesis « IAN/EcoCheck Blog — May 23, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

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