The best ‘super grass’ is a seagrass, of course. Today we celebrate World Seagrass Day!
Seagrass – the only flowering plants to live in the ocean – is so important for the planet. Historically we have overlooked all that it does and may have rather taken it for granted. Not any more. Step into the spotlight, seagrass, and show us your magic tricks!
Meadows of Seagrasses capture carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. Then they store it. That’s why seagrass meadows are called “blue carbon” habitats.
Like most plants, seagrass produces oxygen. So why is it so special? Because seagrass (together with phytoplankton and macro-algae) produces more oxygen than all of the rainforests and grasslands combined. Seriously. If we have enough seagrass, we can (literally) breathe easy.
Clean the water
Seagrass improves the water quality (which is not a bad idea around our coastline) and stabilises sediment.
Seagrass supports thousands of species: fish, invertebrates, birds, reptiles, mammals … even people.
So how’s the UK doing?
Not so well. The UK has lost a shocking 90% of its seagrass meadows (because of disease, disturbance and pollution) but the good news is that they are now being restored. We need to help our kelp!
Sussex is already reinstating almost 200 square kilometres of lost kelp forest along the coast. Further degradation has been halted by the Sussex Nearshore Trawling Byelaw (in March 2021) which bans bottom-towed trawling gears in the nearshore seabed off the Sussex coast (including Brighton to Chichester). As a result, the kelp forests are on their way back. See https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding-projects/sussex-kelp-restoration-project for more info.
Similarly, the Solent Seascape Project will restore the Solent strait between England and the Isle of Wight. This is home to king scallops, cockles, cuttlefish and bass, as well as endangered species such as the European Eel, Thresher Shark and seahorses. The delicious rich marine life attracts predators such as harbour seals, grey seals, bottle-nosed dolphins and common dolphins (no longer a tautology). The air is full of terns and gulls, the water’s edge full of ducks, geese and wading birds (redshanks and oyster catchers). 10% of the world’s Dark-Bellied Brent Geese are here.
Unfortunately, so are we. We have 79,000 shipping movements here each year. We have degraded the Solent so much that over half the saltmarsh has been lost, and 95% of the oysters have gone. That puts our oyster-destruction on a par with the Walrus and the Carpenter – and we too should ‘shed a bitter tear.’ The 650 hectares of seagrass beds need our help. So a number of charities and other institutions are pulling together to restore
- 8 hectares of saltmarsh,
- 7 hectares of seagrass,
- 4 hectares of oysters, and
- 10 breeding seabird nesting sites.
Already the (sea)grass is looking greener.
If the seascape and our seagrass meadows come back:
- It would store carbon – helping to reduce the impacts of climate change,
- There would be nursery grounds for commercially important fish,
- Coastal homes would be protected from erosion and sea level rise,
- Water quality would be improved,
- We would have a natural environment to explore and enjoy.
We’re excited about this and hope you are too. Reach out if you’d like to lend a kelping hand (sorry).
In the meantime, Happy Seagrass Day!