Poor water quality and trawling are taking a toll on seagrass meadows.

Researchers led by Griffith University have calculated where risks to seagrass ecosystems are greatest.

The experts say they want to target monitoring geographically and ultimately focus conservation actions where they are most needed.

The researchers found that poor water quality and destructive fisheries practices such as trawling are contributing to the global decline of seagrass meadows, which are vital habitats and food sources for marine species and act as climate regulators.

Seagrass meadows off Australian coastlines were among the sites assessed, where meadows ranged from being increasing to rapidly declining.

The authors assessed the impacts of eight factors and predicted the regions at greatest risk of seagrass meadow decline. 

The results suggest that water quality and destructive trawl and dredge fishing had the strongest associations with rapid seagrass meadow decline.

“Seagrasses are critical coastal marine habitats that provide ecosystem services including climate regulation and fisheries production,” Dr Mischa Turschwell says.

“With fisheries for example, seagrasses provide nursery habitat for juvenile fish and foraging grounds for about 25 per cent of the world's biggest fisheries.

“We identified associations between pressures and measured changes in seagrass extent and found that seagrasses are especially under threat from poor water quality and destructive fisheries like trawling.

“We gap-fill and predict risk of seagrass loss in regions where no long-term monitoring exists, highlighting where urgent monitoring and management is required."

The full study is accessible here.