The thin(ning) green line? Investigating changes in Kenya's seagrass coverage

William D. Harcourt*, Robert A. Briers, Mark Huxham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge of seagrass distribution is limited to a few well-studied sites and poor where resources are scant (e.g. Africa), hence global estimates of seagrass carbon storage are inaccurate. Here, we analysed freely available Sentinel-2 and Landsat imagery to quantify contemporary coverage and change in seagrass between 1986 and 2016 on Kenya's coast. Using field surveys and independent estimates of historical seagrass, we estimate total cover of Kenya's seagrass to be 317.1 +/- 27.2 km2, following losses of 0.85% yr-1 since 1986. Losses increased from 0.29% yr-1 in 2000 to 1.59% yr-1 in 2016, releasing up to 2.17 Tg carbon since 1986. Anecdotal evidence suggests fishing pressure is an important cause of loss and is likely to intensify in the near future. If these results are representative for Africa, global estimates of seagrass extent and loss need reconsidering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180227
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number11
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Seagrass
  • Mapping
  • Kenya
  • Blue carbon


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