Scientists have discovered vast amounts of sugar to be lining the ocean beds around the world, beneath seagrass meadows.
Seagrass meadows, although recently discovered, have been proven to be one of the world’s most effective natural carbon sinks and also one of the most threatened animal habitats.
Compared to land-based forests, seagrass can capture and store twice as much CO2 and 35 times faster.
However, seagrass meadows are also rapidly declining, and with them – the potential to capture and store massive amounts of climate-warming carbon dioxide that the planet is currently in such desperate need of.
The new discovery made by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology also has much to do with CO2.
The mountains of sugar (mostly in the form of sucrose) found in the seagrass rhizosphere (the soil surrounding its roots) is estimated to be between 0.6 and 1.3 million tons of sugar, comparable to the amount of sugar in 32 billion cans of coke.
And the amounts appear to be 80 times higher than what had previously been measured in marine environments.
If that sucrose were to be degraded by microbes, it would release a minimum of 1.54 million tons of carbon back into the atmosphere.
However, the seagrass rhizosphere also contains phenolic compounds that prevent the sucrose from being consumed by microbes and, thus, the stored carbon is kept intact.
These findings further reinforce the case that seagrass preservation is paramount for life on the planet.