Neptune grass is one of the oldest living plants on Earth with a sample that was found to be alive for over 200,000 years. This plant also plays a huge role in absorbing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
In fact, if you had a similarly sized patch of Neptune Grass as the Amazon Rainforest, the Neptune Grass would absorb 15 times more CO2 out of the atmosphere. Thus, it is often referred to as the ocean’s secret weapon against climate change.
On top of this, these plants also prevent coastal erosion and act as a nursery for fish. In these regards, it is very similar to coral. And like coral, it is beginning to struggle as a result of climate change.
How Can It Live So Long?
Are you curious about how this plant can survive for 200,000 years?
This plant reproduces differently depending on the water’s temperature. When it reproduces asexually, the plant will actually clone itself. The 200,000-year-old sample was actually the seed from the cloning process.
Under normal conditions, there is no reason for the plant to ever die. Or at the very least, it will live an exceptionally long time before it dies completely.
Neptune Grass Can’t Handle Higher Temperatures
Climate change is warming the planet at an alarming rate. And like many fish species, Neptune Grass cannot cope with the higher temperatures. In fact, the plant has a thermal limit of 28°C.
And unfortunately, most summers are seeing temperatures that exceed this in the last two decades.
While the water is still not warm enough to kill the plant, it is warm enough to stunt the growth. And that is a huge problem because this plant already grows very slowly.
As the temperatures continue to increase, the plant’s life will be in jeopardy.
It’s Not Just Climate Change
Now just growing slowly wouldn’t impact the plant that much, if it was the only factor at play. And unfortunately, it is not.
A huge problem are the anchors from boats.
The anchors scrape along the seafloor where the plant resides. As a result, they rip and tear Neptune Grass. The damage that one Yacht anchor can do in one day, can take up to 1,000 years to recover.
However, now that the plant is growing even slower, the recovery time is that much longer.
The plant is also susceptible to receiving too many nutrients from water treatment sites. This is the same issue that causes algae to bloom uncontrollably.
What Can Be Done to Save Neptune Grass?
Unfortunately, there is no way to control the ocean’s temperature other than by reducing the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And then removing the existing gases from the environment.
Thus, once again, this is another reminder to the world to cut emissions.
However, as the world shifts towards net-zero emissions, this plant is very suitable to be planted en mass. It has a phenomenal ability to absorb carbon dioxide, thus, governments may be encouraged to plant it.
Yet, due to the slow growth, the viability of this is not great. However, this would provide safe havens for the grass where it cannot be damaged by anchors or treated water affecting it.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.