B E T W E E N T H E S E A A N D T H E S H O R E
This series has the Portuguese Ministry of Culture as an institutional partner
Get to know one of the richest ecosystems in the world
Seagrasses are flowering plants that live in shallow waters, often oscillating between submersion and the surface, according to the tides
While seagrass occupy 0.1% of the sea's soil, they are responsible for 11% of the oceans sequestered carbon
Coastal ecosystems of biodiversity, seagrass meadows have the ability to create unique habitats, benefiting themselves and other marine species, while providing resources to our human activities. This simple, yet beautiful environment is one of the richest ecosystems in the world
This series explores the extraordinary coastlines where seagrass meadows grow, nurturing 3 million people in communities across the world
The visual language of this series reveals Ligia Oliveira’s background, with a multilevel approach to elements and a careful dialogue with materials: aerial perspectives of the landscapes where seagrass meadows grow, among the ever-changing sandbars and shifting currents of the sea
Seagrass movement and fluidity, in the sand and underwater, flowing between tides with mindful, spontaneous brushstrokes; colour and rhythm, in a dialogue with the textured cotton surface
And detailed close-ups of seagrass various states of growth, through calm, simple lines and subtle gradients of tones
The making of this series involved diving into scientist's work on seagrass - including key documentation by the United Nations and by Biologists from all over the world. Essential to a complete understanding of this habitat were field trips to study seagrass graceful characteristics and the astonishing beauty of these landscapes
Seagrass meadows are a rich, incredible ecosystem supporting ocean life at the Ria Formosa Natural Park and around the world. Through this series, I aim to bring awareness to these beautiful, yet threatened marine flowering plants, and to motivate their protection. I'm inspired by their textures, light, the goodness they provide; in flowing and changing colours, bringing tranquility, rhythm and a calm joy.
Seagrass meadows are extremely rich marine habitats, where animals find partners and shelter; babies are born, and as seagrass provide nurseries and food for many aquatic species, seahorses, turtles, dolphins, dugongs, mollusks, crustaceans, sharks and a vast array of fish depend on these habitats for living. Seagrass meadows hold an incredible thirty times more animals than adjacent sand habitats. Coastal ecosystems of biodiversity, seagrass meadows have the ability to modify their environments to create unique habitats, benefiting themselves and other marine species, while providing many resources to our human activities. Seagrass meadows also contribute to stabilize sediments and reduce coastal erosion; improve water quality and are excellent at storing carbon, being able to capture up to 83 million tons of carbon per year. They are one of the richest ecosystems of the world and the basis of fishing areas, providing 50% of the global fishing industry, supporting communities and nutrition for 3 billion people. Seagrasses have been a resource for humans for the last 10,000 years: across the globe, humans use it for building insulation, roofing, mattress filling, household objects, and fertilizer.
Seagrasses are flowering plants that live in shallow waters, and in many cases, their lives oscillate between submersion and the surface, according to the tides. Seagrass meadows, mangroves and coastal wetlands capture carbon at a higher rate than tropical forests. While seagrass occupy 0.1% of the sea's soil, they are responsible for 11% of the oceans’ sequestered carbon. Seagrass meadows are also the frontline of coastal protection for people living in seashore areas in the event of a tsunami - a lesson countries learnt following the earthquake in Asia, in the beginning of this century.
The conservation and restoration of seagrass meadows offers the possibility of mitigating carbon in addition to forests, contributing to the stability of sediments and maintaining the biodiversity and nutrition of these ecosystems, among the most productive on Earth and vital to communities worldwide. In Portugal, the most extensive seagrass meadows are found in Sado, Tejo and Mondego estuaries, and in the Rias of Aveiro and Formosa. In the latter, they are also home to two threatened seahorse species. Seagrass meadows are fundamental to the functioning of these water ecosystems, and are very vulnerable in terms of conservation. Since there is no international regulatory legislation for seagrass, its protection depends on the implementation of regional and local measures, making it even more important to inform people about this precious ecosystem.
Between the Sea and the Shore is dedicated to these beautiful habitats and to everything they provide us. I hope this work gives visibility to this rich, incredible ecosystem while making viewers sensible to its role in ocean life and contribute to its regeneration. I am inspired by the sensory qualities of seagrass: texture, evoking its tranquillity and calm. Its colours, tones, rhythms and formal changes, representing its different species, scales and perspectives of observation. Seagrass meadows convey considerations about what a home is: home for the species that live in them, part of the larger home that is our planet, with its contribution to biodiversity, atmospheric quality, resources and beauty. As a medium, I use watercolour, a material that evokes the softness, pleasantness and fluidity of these aquatic plants. Of slow and methodical construction, this ongoing series celebrates the fragile beauty, formal diversity and value of seagrass meadows, flowing in the intertidal areas and sea currents.
References for further reading:
El País (2020). "Tardariamos tres generaciones en recuperar la posidonia del Mediterráneo" (interview with biologist Carlos Duarte - in Spanish) - The article behind the origin of this series
United Nations Environment Programme (2020). Out of the Blue: The Value of Seagrasses to the Environment and to People. UNEP, Nairobi
NGO's working for Seagrass regeneration
Ibiza Preservation website (ES)
Project Seagrass website (UK/worldwide)
Ocean Alive website (PT)