Did you know that Florida is home to approximately 2.2 million acres of seagrass beds? That’s about the size of Connecticut!

Seagrasses are important to the green sea turtle and to marine habitats worldwide. They provide a wealth of ecosystem services such as clean water, feeding grounds for wildlife, maintaining the structural integrity of the seabed, and mitigating the impact of severe weather on Florida’s coasts. Green sea turtles are herbivores who depend on seagrasses for food. As conservation efforts to increase green sea turtle numbers succeed, it is even more important to protect seagrasses so they can feed the turtles and stabilize marine ecosystems!

What’s Going On?

Seagrass meadows are crucial to the health of marine ecosystems across the globe. They provide food and shelter for dozens of marine species, maintain water quality, and stabilize the seabed. Green sea turtles depend on seagrass beds for most of their diet. They even get their name from seagrass –the fatty tissue on their bodies is tinted green from eating it.

Adult green sea turtles are herbivores; they almost exclusively feed on plant life. Without seagrass meadows, green sea turtles would lose a large portion of their available food.

Florida is home to one of the largest groupings of green sea turtle nests in the Western Atlantic. The health of Florida’s seagrass is vital to supporting this endangered species.

Why It Matters

Seven seagrass species are found in Florida and they cover approximately 2.2 million acres underwater. The Florida Bay, as well as the Apalachee Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, are two of North America’s largest seagrass beds. But Florida’s seagrass beds are vulnerable to water pollution, extreme weather caused by climate change, and algal blooms.

The Indian River Lagoon, one of the world’s most biodiverse estuaries, lost 58% of its seagrass over the last decade. Protecting these natural areas is vital to the health of marine ecosystems in Florida.

Green sea turtles naturally evolved to alter seagrass meadows through rotational grazing. They remove old growth and cut down on the biomass of the leaf, which increases seagrasses’ nutritional value and ability to harvest light. Other creatures that live in seagrass beds benefit from the increased nutritional output as well.

Rebounding green sea turtle numbers means seagrass beds have more mouths to feed while also dealing with stress from human activity. But it is important to stress that human impact, not increasing sea turtle numbers, is the root cause of seagrass decline.

Studies are currently underway to understand the long-term solutions for declining seagrass, but relieving human strain on seagrass beds helps both the turtles and the meadows.

What You Can Do

  • Minimize fertilizer runoff: If you live by a river or on the coast, use a slow-release fertilizer and read the label closely to not use more than you need.
  • Watch boating habits: Wear polarized sunglasses and pay attention to boating signs to avoid hitting seagrass beds or running aground. When in doubt, slow down to an idle.
  • Know before you build: Consider building docks five feet above the water using grating instead of planks to prevent blocking seagrasses’ sunlight.


Information from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Museum of Natural History, NOAA, the American Oceans Organization, the National Park Service, Nature Today, The University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.