Seagrass ecosystems of the Pacific Island Countries and Territories: A global bright spot
Seagrass ecosystems exist throughout Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). Despite this area covering nearly 8% of the global ocean, information on seagrass distribution, biogeography, and status remains largely absent from the scientific literature. We confirm 16 seagrass species occur across 17 of the 22 PICTs with the highest number in Melanesia, followed by Micronesia and Polynesia respectively. The greatest diversity of seagrass occurs in Papua New Guinea (13 species), and attenuates eastward across the Pacific to two species in French Polynesia. We conservatively estimate seagrass extent to be 1446.2 km2, with the greatest extent (84%) in Melanesia. We find seagrass condition in 65% of PICTs increasing or displaying no discernible trend since records began. Marine conservation across the region overwhelmingly focuses on coral reefs, with seagrass ecosystems marginalised in conservation legislation and policy. Traditional knowledge is playing a greater role in managing local seagrass resources and these approaches are having greater success than contemporary conservation approaches. In a world where the future of seagrass ecosystems is looking progressively dire, the Pacific Islands appears as a global bright spot, where pressures remain relatively low and seagrass more resilient.