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A review of seagrass cover, status and trends in Africa

Mwikamba, Edward; Githaiga, Michael; Briers, Robert A.; Huxham, Mark


Michael Githaiga


The recognition of the benefits that seagrasses contribute has enhanced the research interest in these marine ecosystems. Seagrasses provide critical goods and services and support the livelihoods of millions of people. Despite this, they are declining around the globe. To conserve these ecosystems, it is necessary to understand their extent and the drivers leading to their loss. However, global seagrass cover estimates are highly uncertain and there are large regional data gaps, especially in the African continent. This work reviewed all available data on the extent of seagrass cover, evidence of changes in cover and drivers of this change in Africa, to inform management and conservation approaches across the continent and identify gaps in knowledge. Using a systematic review and expert consultation, 43 relevant articles were identified. Of the 41 African countries with a coastline, 27% had no data on seagrass cover. For 44%, data were available for some parts of their coastline, while 29% had data for their entire coastline. Quantitative information on trends in seagrass cover change was only available from three countries. The study identified 32 suggested drivers of seagrass cover loss, with impacts from fishing mentioned most frequently. Direct anthropogenic drivers accounted for 66.7% of the mentions, while climate and biologically induced drivers accounted for 22.7% and 10.6%, respectively. This study demonstrates the need for better estimates of seagrass extent, in at least 70% of relevant African nations, and major gaps in our understanding of the drivers of seagrass decline in Africa.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Mar 8, 2024
Online Publication Date Mar 22, 2024
Publication Date 2024-06
Deposit Date Mar 11, 2024
Publicly Available Date Mar 22, 2024
Print ISSN 1559-2723
Electronic ISSN 1559-2731
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 47
Issue 4
Pages 917–934
Keywords coastal ecosystems, seagrass cover extent, drivers of change, fishing, Africa
Public URL
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