What was the issue
Over the last century, we have lost up to 92% of our seagrass meadows in the UK and they continue to decline globally at a rate of 7% per year.
Yet, seagrass is vital to our oceans. It is the world’s only flowering plant capable of living in seawater and an incredible ally in the fight against climate change. Seagrasses can capture carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests and, even though it covers less than 1% of the seafloor, it globally accounts for 10-18% of total ocean carbon storage.
In the UK, seagrass meadows also support biodiversity providing important nursery habitat for important commercial fish species, as well as habitat for two endangered seahorse species, an array of invertebrates, greater and lesser spotted dogfish, grey seals, octopus, and sand eels for example.
What we achieved
Together with Sky Ocean Rescue, Swansea University and Project Seagrass we collected and planted approximately 1.2 million seagrass seeds across 20,000m2 in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
We worked with 2,108 volunteers from 44 separate organisations to do this, amounting to over 4,500 hours of volunteer time. Seagrass restoration like this will benefit local coastal economies, support fisheries, help to improve water quality by removing excess organic material and nitrogen, as well as help address climate change through ecosystem services seagrass provides for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
What is next
Our long-term vision is to see 2,500 hectares of this amazing habitat restored around the UK by 2050. In the short term we are working with multiple donors and partners to plant 20 hectares of seagrass by 2026 and develop a mechanised restoration approach that will enable us to dramatically upscale future plantings.
We are also putting in place procedures to involve coastal communities and stakeholders in project design and implementation and create a sustainable seagrass restoration model that governments and stakeholders can roll out across the UK.
We will continue to call on governments to both protect existing and restore these lush underwater meadows and for the UK to become a global leader in restoring ocean health and combating climate change.