17/02/2022 | Seagrasses belong to the flowering plants. They are the only ones within this plant group that can grow in the sea. Dr. Stephanie Helber went diving off the coast of Zanzibar to explore these fascinating ecosystems for her PhD at ZMT. Inspired by her research stay, she has written a book to teach elementary school-aged children about this special underwater world and the threats for this valuable ecosystem. Marine biologist Dr. Paula Senff, who also did her PhD at ZMT, has captured the colourful world of seagrass beds with her illustrations for the book. The children's book "Heroes of the Underwater Forest" has now been published by Oldenburg Isensee Publishing House – in both German and English.
The book tells the story of the girl Chloe, who discovers the seagrass meadows off the coast of Zanzibar with her friend Amo. When the seagrasses disappear and with them all the sea dwellers, the two children want to find out what happened and what they can do to bring the seagrass meadow back to life.
“At first glance, seagrass meadows are not necessarily among the most attractive marine habitats. Yet, together with coral reefs, tropical rainforests and mangroves, they are one of the most important ecosystems in the world,” says Dr. Stephanie Helber, a scientific diver and now a marine biologist at the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) at the University of Oldenburg.
Seagrass meadows are nurseries for a number of fish species, keep the water clean, store carbon and release oxygen into the surrounding water. “However, pressures from climate change, pollution and human use have already caused one-third of the world's seagrass meadows to disappear,” Helber says. “With my children's book, I want to raise awareness on the importance of this fascinating habitat and how crucial it is to protect seagrass meadows.” She is supported by Dr. Paula Senff, now a biologist at the Université de Lorraine, France. “I've always loved to draw, and this book gives me the opportunity to use pictures to teach children about this beautiful underwater world,” Senff says. The two scientists met ZMT in Bremen, Germany, where they conducted research on seagrasses and integrated aquaculture respectively.
The two researchers are delighted to have found a publisher in Isensee, which will initially publish the book in German and English. Other languages are to follow, as they would like to use their story as a bridge to transport knowledge about seagrass meadows and the need for their protection to children in classrooms as part of school projects in Germany and several countries in Africa.
Available online at: https://www.isensee.de/product/heroes-of-the-underwater-forest/