Seagrasses in shallow sheltered regions of estuarine, brackish, and marine environments are of productive and ecological importance. The major seagrass meadows in India exist along the southeast coast (Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay) and in the lagoons of islands from Lakshadweep (Arabian sea) and Andaman and Nicobar (Bay of Bengal). The flora comprises 15 species and is dominated by Cymodocea rotundata, C. serrulata, Thalassia hemprichii, Halodule uninervis, H. pinifolia, Halophila beccarii, H. ovata, and H. ovalis. Distribution occurs from the intertidal zone to a maximum depth of ∼15 m. Maximum growth and biomass are restricted from the lower littoral zone to the depth of 2–2.5 m. A significant correlation (r = −0.63 and −0.71, respectively, p < 0.05) was observed between depth and biomass from major seagrass meadows. Greatest species richness and biomass of seagrass occur mainly in open marine sandy habitats. Associated and epiphytic floras mainly consist of marine algae and are dominated by members of the rhodophyceae group. Various fishes, molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms form the predominant associated fauna. Macrofauna mainly comprised of Oligochaetes (40.17%), Polychaetes (18.96%), Crustaceans (11.36%), and Nematods (18.71%), while meiofaunal groups mainly consisted of Turbellaria (34.17%), Nematoda (37.3%), and Harpacticoida (10.11%). In India, seagrass habitat, although categorized under ecologically sensitive coastal areas, is largely ignored from the educational, research, and management points of views. In spite of being one of the predominant marine macrophytic floras, surprisingly, seagrasses have not been introduced in plant science studies, even at the university level. Unawareness regarding the functions of seagrasses at an educational level and among the common people and coastal zone managers has resulted in enormous damage to them in the recent past. Seagrass habitat is under constantly increasing threat from various anthropogenic activities. Strict implementation of a Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) act is imperative to check further deterioration of seagrass beds.
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Vol. 23 • No. 1