Plymouth ‘science fiction’ success story shared at COP26
Planting grass on the seabed in Plymouth is one of the UK’s ecological success stories shared at COP26 in Glasgow.
The ambition to collect seagrass seeds from healthy seagrass meadows, grow them in the lab and then plant a total of eight hectares sounds like science fiction.
But already one hectare – the equivalent of 2.5 football pitches – was planted in the Plymouth Sound Special Area of Conservation (SAC) earlier this year, and an additional half a hectare will be added in late November and early December.
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Fiona Crouch, ReMEDIES Project Manager for Natural England, said: “The seabed is a mostly hidden environment, but its features are important for wildlife and humans.
“Collecting and cultivating herbarium seeds before replanting them is a first for England on this scale. But that’s only part of the job. Raising awareness of these sensitive seabed habitats, their location and importance, and inspiring people to care for them is vital for our work to have a lasting impact. And being at COP26 to share this message will only help.
Visitors enjoying the Green Zone events program at Glasgow Science Center will hear the story of England’s largest seagrass planting effort through the LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES partnership, along with other nature-based solutions by Natural England on the Inter-Agency Climate Change Group stand.
Seagrass beds provide important habitat for young fish and for protected creatures such as seahorses and pedunculate jellyfish. Seagrass beds also help clean the water as well as capture and store carbon.
But recent research has suggested that the UK may have lost up to 92% of its seagrass beds. Natural England is leading the four-year £ 2.5million partnership funded by the EU’s Life program to protect and restore seabed habitats in five SACs in southern England.
ReMEDIES ‘restoration manager – the Ocean Conservation Trust – aims to plant four hectares of seagrass in Plymouth Sound and four hectares in the Solent Sea SAC.
ReMEDIES is also working to protect existing seagrass beds. Thanks to its partner, the Royal Yachting Association, it invites the yachting community to learn more about the impact of anchoring and mooring practices on the seabed and to share best practice advice with boaters.
It also tests and installs advanced mooring systems (AMS) for boats. These systems are specially designed to reduce interaction with the seabed.
It is estimated that the UK may have lost up to 92 percent of its seagrass beds due to dieback, pollution and physical disturbance have been identified as contributing causes.
About 16,000 bags of seeds and 2,200 seedlings have been planted in Plymouth Sound National Marine Park in Devon, and the £ 2.5million project aims to cultivate eight hectares (80,000 m²) of grassland in the Devon and Hampshire over four years.
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