A recent study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Madras and Presidency College revealed that a species of marine seagrass found in the Mandapam region near Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu has the potential to be used in chemotherapy treatment for liver cancer.


About ‘Seagrasses’

  • Seagrasses are flowering plants that grow submerged in shallow marine waters like bays and lagoons.
  • They are so-named because most species have long green, grass-like leaves.
  • Seagrasses have roots, stems, and leaves and produce flowers and seeds.
  • Like terrestrial plants, seagrass also photosynthesises and manufactures their own food and releases oxygen.
  • They evolved around 100 million years ago, and there are approximately 72 different seagrass species that belong to four major groups.
  • Some of the important seagrasses are Sea Cow Grass (Cymodocea serrulata), Thready Seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata), Needle Seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium), Flat-tipped Seagrass (Halodule uninervis), Spoon Seagrass (Halophila ovalis) and Ribbon Grass (Enhalus acoroides).
  • Distribution —
      • They are found on all continents except Antarctica.
      • The tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific hold the highest diversity of seagrasses in the world.
  • Seagrass distribution in India —
      • They occur all along the coastal areas of India.
      • They are abundant in the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu.
  • Ecosystem services —
      • They are considered to be ‘Ecosystem Engineers’.
      • Seagrasses help maintain water quality. They trap fine sediments and suspended particles in the water column and increase water clarity.
      • They filter nutrients released from land-based industries before they reach sensitive habitats like coral reefs.
      • The extensive vertical and horizontal root systems of seagrasses stabilise the sea bottom.
      • They are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world.


Project on Seagrasses 

  • The Government has also initiated a project across the States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Odisha on enhancing climate resilience of India’s coastal communities at a total cost of US $130.269 million which includes a grant of US$ 43.419 million by Global Climate Fund (GCF) covering 24 ecosystems in these selected States which aims to strengthen the climate resilience of coastal communities by protecting and restoring India’s natural ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrasses.
  • Seagrasses have been studied for over two decades with the financial support of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the State/UT Governments.
  • Academic and research institutions have been actively involved in seagrass research pertaining to seagrass mapping, species diversity and its transplantation.