ReSOW will develop a UK-wide baseline map of seagrass, which will contribute to international initiatives on seagrass assessment and provide a key resource for marine planning, environmental impact assessment and management.
We will use a case study approach to understand the variability within ecosystem services provision. Different environments are subject to different conditions in terms of the hydrodynamic, nutrient, light, and salinity conditions and consequently their capacity to deliver ecosystem services varies. We have seven study sites spread throughout the UK, for which we will gather data on carbon storage and fisheries and conduct stakeholder surveys.
Orkney’s network of over 70 islands and skerries offer a relatively pristine marine environment for seagrass ecosystems to thrive. Some of the largest seagrass meadows in the UK are present in Orkney’s waters. In 2021 Project Seagrass started a seagrass mapping project around the Orkney Islands, funded by Marine Scotland, and co-created and delivered in collaboration a local scallop diver whose local ecological knowledge enabled the targeting and mapping of previously unrecorded meadows.
In 2022 that work is continuing with additional targeted ecosystem service research (biodiversity and blue carbon) being conducted within the archiepelago in collaboration with Dr Joanne Porter and her students at the Heriot-Watt University Orkney Campus.
CROMACH is a community association formed to give voice to the local community in management of the marine environment of Loch Craignish, Shuna Sound, the Sound of Jura, and the Firth of Lorn. They believe management should be in the public interest and contribute to the collective benefit of the people of the peninsula of Craignish.
In 2019, CROMACH came together with other Argyll communities to successfully achieve the first Mission Blue Hope Spot in Scotland, and mainland UK, the Argyll Coast and Islands Hope Spot. Hope Spots are a catalyst to greater understanding, appreciation and protection of our marine environment, and they have a global reach. Collectively, they can help to protect and restore marine biodiversity on a local, regional, national and international scale.
In 2020, CROMACH and other organisations set up the Seawilding project, which aims to advance the environmental protection and improvement of Scottish coastal waters by developing and delivering projects to restore degraded marine habitats and species, including native oysters and other priority marine features around coastal shorelines.
In 2021, Seawilding pioneered Scotland’s first community-led seagrass restoration at Loch Craignish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tid73gH2ibA. Funded by NatureScot and The Crown Estate, in 2021 they planted ¼ hectare of seagrass and in 2022 they plan a further ¼ hectare.
The port of Milford Haven, managed by Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA), is a heavy industry area. It is the UK’s largest energy port and leading port gateway, which makes up part of the Milford Haven Waterway. The port currently serves Valero Refinery and Pembrokeshire Oil Terminal, Puma Energy, South Hook LNG and Dragon LNG. The waterway also houses Europe's largest gas-fired power station ‘Pembroke Power Station’. It is the largest estuary in Wales and one of the deepest natural harbours in the world. The Haven is designated in a European Marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and many of the foreshores are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Many of the Haven’s bays have seagrass present. In 2019 Project Seagrass’ Seagrass Ocean Rescue project (with WWF UK, Sky Ocean Rescue, Swansea University and Cardiff University), was the first full scale seagrass restoration project in the UK. Over the 2 years of the project 1 million seeds were planted over a two-hectare area (approximately two rugby pitches) in Dale, West Wales within the Milford Haven waterway.
The Isles of Scilly archipelago is a highly protected area with designations including Eastern Isles Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA), Higher Town Marine Conservation Zone and Marine Coastal Access Act. Much of the land is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and management by the Wildlife Trust. The area is highly dependent on tourism accounting for around 85% of its income. Natural England has designated the islands as a National Character Area. The seagrass meadows of the Isles of Scilly are some of the exemplar healthiest eelgrass meadows in the UK, which is thought to be due to the unpolluted clear waters and effects of the North Atlantic Current.
The Isles of Scilly annual seagrass diving programme funded by Natural England, in collaboration with Project Seagrass and run by Dr Jim Bull of Swansea University, has been running since 1996. This programme annually assesses the health of un-impacted temperate and subtidal (Zostera marina) seagrass at five sites around the archipelago.
In April 2022 Swansea University with University of Plymouth in collaboration with Project Seagrass and funded by Natural England undertook a data collection project using remotely operated vehicles for seagrass habitat suitability modelling (HSM). Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) were used to ground truth HSM for the Isles of Scilly.
The Solent is the strait between the Isle of Wight and the mainland UK and is a major shipping lane for freight, passenger, hovercraft and military vessels. The waterway is also heavily utilised for recreational boating and yachting. Much of the coastline is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and is included in the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Isle of Wight is also designated as an UNESCO Biosphere reserve.
Project Seagrass, working with WWF UK and funded by Carlsberg, are looking to restore Zostera marina seagrass at several locations around the Isle of Wight and in the Solent. Baseline work is currently being undertaken to identify site suitability. Restoration trials have been deployed in Ryde and Yarmouth. Arc Consulting, working with Project Seagrass on the Isle of Wight, is an environmental consultancy which supports seagrass restoration and education surrounding biodiversity within seagrass and other marine habitats. LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES led by Natural England is a £2.5 million, four-year marine conservation partnership project, due to be completed in 2023, to Save Our Seabed at five SACs in Southern England of which the Solent SAC is one.