Seagrass - It's time to restore what's left
Mark Parry |
• January 2022
My first deep dive changed my view of British waters and diving forever. I work as a seagrass ecologist and project manager at the Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT). This year, we planted the first seeds in the OCT seagrass cultivation laboratory at the National Marine Aquarium as part of a major £2.5 million habitat restoration project. The laboratory has now been filled with the test batch of approximately 60,000 seeds – all of which we collected by hand. We will be cultivating up to 360,000 plants a year in the new laboratory, to help restore up to eight hectares of lost seagrass meadows in the UK. I have studied seagrass habitats for many years now, and it has historically been greatly underrepresented. It’s a highly significant ecosystem that contributes an enormous amount to coastal communities, both animal and human. The long-term aim of the reforestation of the UK’s seagrass meadows is to demonstrate an effective and efficient way of restoring subtidal seagrass habitat. With considerable loss there are large areas around the UK that have the potential for restoration. With habitat restoration, we restore the ecosystem services that our coastal systems have lost. Communities gain the financial benefits of having these highly productive habitats, our coastal waters are regulated through the presence of these vegetative habitats and contribute towards locking away carbon for millennia, providing these habitats remain in place. The projected impacts are that we recover what we lost, and we hand an ocean environment over to the next generation that is able to provide for them, so that they are also able to appreciate the benefits of healthy ocean systems.