An overlooked ecosystem: seagrass meadows

By , |2021-12-09T10:56:31+00:00October 26th, 2021|Marine Programme, Seagrass|Comments Off on An overlooked ecosystem: seagrass meadows

When we think about important habitats, we often imagine a coral reef, a tropical rainforest or maybe the African savannah. But there are many less celebrated, often overlooked ecosystems that are equally deserving of our attention: these habitats help regulate our climate, stock our food supplies and supply us with clean water, and are also home to some of the most beautiful and diverse wildlife on the planet.

It’s a cold crisp February morning in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Forty volunteers from far and wide gather with villagers and scientists in Dale Bay to do something that’s never been done in the UK on this scale.

They are planting seagrass seedlings, and not just a few. They are planting 750,000 seedlings as part of the country’s biggest ever seagrass meadow restoration project, to protect biodiversity, climate, and people.

Seagrass is a marine flowering plant that exists in most of the world’s oceans and seas, stretching from northern Russia to New Zealand’s South Island. These plants evolved from terrestrial grasses over 70 million years ago. They often grow in vast patches, called seagrass meadows, which are true hotspots of life. In the UK, a seagrass meadow hosts 30 times more animals than an adjacent habitat.

A century ago, seagrass meadows covered the entirety of Dale Bay. However, pollution, coastal development, and damage from boat propellers and chain moorings greatly damaged them to the point where they largely disappeared from Dale Bay and the rest of the UK.

The United Kingdom has lost up to