Seagrass meadows form valuable ecosystems, but are considered to have low cultural value due to limited research efforts in this field. We provide evidence that seagrass deposits play a hitherto unrealized central role in preserving valuable submerged archaeological and historical heritage across the world, while also providing an historical archive of human cultural development over time. We highlight three case studies showing the significance of seagrass in protecting underwater cultural heritage in Denmark, the Mediterranean and Australia. Moreover, we present an overview of additional evidence compiled from the literature. We emphasize that this important role of seagrasses is linked to their capacity to form thick sedimentary deposits, accumulating over time, thereby covering and sealing submerged archaeological heritage. Seagrass conservation and restoration are key to protecting this buried heritage while also supporting the role of seagrass deposits as carbon sinks as well as the many other important ecosystem functions of seagrasses.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: DKJ was supported by the Velux Foundations through the project “Havets Skove” (“Marine Forests”). OS was supported by an ARC DECRA (DE170101524). We thank a large number of colleagues who have kindly helped us identify examples on the role of seagrasses in protecting submerged heritage: Australia: Comber Consultants, NSW: Dr David Nutley; Univ. of Western Australia: Dr. Ingrid Ward; Western Australian Museum, Dept. of Maritime Archaeology: Dr. Ross Anderson, Dr. Vicky Richards (Materials Conservation); Bulgaria: Inst. of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences: Dr. Dimitar Berov; Cypros: Marine Environmental Consultancy: Dr. Antonis Petrou; France: Université de Corse Pascal Paoli: Prof. Gérard Pergent; Greeze: Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Inst. of Oceanography: Dr. Dimitris Sakellariou; Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports: Dr. Katerina Athanasaki (Heraklio Archaeological Museum), Dr. Emmanouela Apostolaki (Heraklio Ephorate of Antiquities), Dr. Katerina Dellaporta, Dr. Aggeliki Simosi and Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou (Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities), Dr. Rena Veropoulidou (Museum of Byzantine Culture); Hydrographic Service, Hellenic Navy: Dr. Petros Bitsikokos; Inst. of Underwater Archaeological Research: Dr. Elias Spondylis, Dr. Elpida Hadjidaki, Dr. Christos Agouridis; Univ. of Patras, Geology Dept.: Dr. George Papatheodorou, Dr. Maria Geraga; USA: Marine Archaeologist at Coastal Environments, Inc., Louisiana: Dr. Amanda Evans. Tinna Christensen, Aarhus University, is thanked for help with figures.