An Underwater Time Capsule – How Seagrass Meadows Hold Archaeological Secrets·
The most beautiful meadows are to be found along the world’s sandy coasts: Seagrass.
It lines the seafloor like an enormous carpet. In the Nordics, shallow coastal waters are dominated by the seagrass “eelgrass” (Zostera marina).
Seagrass has some important functions, such as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and protecting our coasts from sea level rise, and boosting biodiversity.
But seagrass can do even more than that. An international research project has now documented how seagrass also protects our cultural history.
Our results are published in the journal Ambio.
How seagrass protects archaeology
Numerous archaeological treasures lay just a stone’s throw from the coast: Stone Age settlements in Denmark; Phoenician, Roman and Greek shipwrecks with their cargo in the Mediterranean Sea; and more recent wrecks in Australia.
Underwater meadows stabilise the seafloor by dampening wave energy and forming a stabilising network of roots and stems.
They also build up the seabed by capturing remains of seaweed and other particles in mat-like layers, burying deeper sediments and protecting anything buried within them as the seagrass continues to grow.
Photo: John Mark Arnold/Unsplash
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