(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) applied an innovative method to study the sea depths. They attached cameras and trackers to the dorsal fins of tiger sharks.
Many hours of images of the seabed, taken in this way, made it possible to accurately determine the area of underwater “forest” of algae in the Caribbean Sea. The results showed that it extends over 92,000 square kilometers – the largest marine plant ecosystem known to date.
The scientists explained that the study of meadows overgrown with algae is not an easy task. They are located in deep or murky waters and are not always visible to aircraft or satellites.
Therefore, the forest area in the Caribbean Sea could not be established for a long time – it was estimated in the range from 160 thousand to 1.6 million square kilometers.
Divers explore the underwater world while diving, but this approach is expensive and very slow. Tiger sharks, on the other hand, are fast and highly mobile creatures that spend a lot of time in thickets.
Unlike humans, they do not need to constantly rise to the surface. Between 2016 and 2020, scientists attached recording equipment to the fins of seven sharks.
The chambers were secured with biodegradable ties and a quick release hinge. Six hours later, the hinge collapsed in the sea water and the camera floated to the surface, where researchers intercepted it.
The authors of the scientific work emphasized the importance of studying marine forests. They are home to many species of fish, snakes and crustaceans, prevent coastal erosion, and are major carbon sinks, making an important contribution to climate conservation.
Every year, the total area of marine forests is reduced by 7%. Only Great Britain has lost 90% of algae over several centuries. Knowing exactly the location and area of forests, more effective steps can be taken to protect them.
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