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Why is seagrass so important? 

Seagrass meadows living in shallow waters along our coastline are vital for biodiversity and marine life – harbouring 30 times more species than bare sediment. They are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, providing spawning, nursery and feeding grounds for endangered wildlife such as seahorses as well as 20% of the world’s biggest fisheries.  

 Seagrasses are also an incredible tool in the fight against climate change. They provide coastal protection, erosion control, and account for more than 10% of total ocean carbon storage, rapidly storing organic carbon into sediments, where it remains ‘locked up’ for long time periods. Global analysis of these rates indicates that seagrass meadows can store carbon at rates over 30 times that of tropical rainforests. This means they could have an important role to play in helping the UK reaching our carbon emission targets. 

 Yet seagrass meadows are one of the most rapidly declining ecosystems on Earth. Around 7% of their known area is lost globally each year, which in turn has a major biodiversity impact on our coastal ecosystems. Seagrass meadows were once common around the UK coast, but up to 90% have been lost due to poor water quality, coastal development, boating impacts and aquaculture. 

The first major UK seagrass restoration project

With your help, we’re conducting the first major seagrass restoration project in the UK. Working in partnership with the University of Swansea and the NGO Project Seagrass, our aim is to re-establish seagrass meadows as thriving nurseries for juvenile fish and carbon stores in UK coastal waters, starting with an initial 2 hectares of new seagrass meadow at a pilot site in Dale in South Wales.  

 To date, we have collected more than 800,000 seeds from seagrass donor sites and prepared them for planting. In early 2020, trained volunteer divers – including some from local communities – helped us plant these seeds at the Dale pilot site, ensuring regular monitoring and repeat planting sessions as needed for successful germination. 

We are now seeking funding to assess the feasibility of further, larger sites for subsequent seagrass restoration efforts in north Wales and Scotland, with the long-term aim of restoring ten hectares of seagrass meadow in both locations. Stakeholder engagement will be vital to the project to gain support from local communities and inspire a sense of ownership of the seagrass meadow, ensuring future water-based activities do not damage restoration efforts. 

Your support will allow us to restore vital seagrass meadows around the UK’s coastline; enhancing coastal biodiversity, increasing spawning, nursery and feeding grounds for our depleted fisheries, and re-establishing a huge source of carbon storage – all helping to play a key role in UK efforts to combat climate change.  

 

Alec Taylor  Head of Marine Policy, WWF  

‘Seagrass restoration ticks so many boxes: climate, fisheries, water quality, biodiversity. But we will only get the benefits if we act now and at scale. We want the oceans to play a hero’s role in the fight against global heating’  

To find out how you can support our seagrass restoration for the benefit of our one planet, please email philanthropy@wwf.org.uk or call us at (+44) 01483 412424. 

 

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