In the sheltered parts of many bays and estuaries, flowering plants, called seagrasses, can establish extensive underwater meadows that are some of our most important but challenged coastal habitats. They are the only flowering plants found in the area and have true roots rather than holdfasts as seaweeds do. A wiry Seagrass known as Sea-nymph is also found on exposed rocky coasts such as at the Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary.
While eaten directly by very few animals, the seagrasses provide shelter as well as contribute large amounts of plant material that breaks down to form detritus, a major food source for many invertebrates living in the seagrass habitat.
Seagrasses in Victoria have suffered from massive decline in the past three decades with declines being most serious in embayments with catchments that been extensively modified for urban or agricultural development. As seagrasses may take many decades to recover once lost, seagrass decline is a major community concern. Loss of seagrass leads to reduced habitat for many commercially significant fish and internationally important bird species.
Common marine animals that can be observed in seagrass beds include pipefish, seahorses, wrasse, whiting, squid, octopus and a range of small arthropods.