Sun rays shining through a bed of seagrass underwater

First British seagrass restoration to begin in Pembrokeshire

Britain’s first seagrass restoration project has been launched, with the aim to ‘re-green’ Pembrokeshire’s Dale Bay. Seagrass Ocean Rescue, a joint project between Sky Ocean Rescue, WWF and Swansea University, will restore 20,000sqm of the marine plant, once plentiful in British waters.

An unsung hero in the fight against climate change, seagrass covers just 0.2 percent of the ocean but provides an estimated 10 percent of its carbon storage.

As well as helping to capture CO2 up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests, seagrass meadows also play a vital role in ocean health by supporting biodiversity, protecting coasts from erosion and acting as a nursery for marine life.

Seagrass has declined by 92 percent over the past century due to pollution and shipping, and the UK restoration project was inspired by other conservation successes including 9000 new acres planted along Virginia’s Atlantic coast in 1999 by William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Seagrass Ocean Rescue plans to restore seagrass first in an experimental two-hectare area and aims to inspire future major restoration projects as part of a global nature-based solution to climate change.

Dr Richard Unsworth, lead biologist on the project at Swansea University and director of charity Project Seagrass, said, “Dale Bay in Pembrokeshire was chosen because historically this area has lost seagrass, but has the right features for it to survive in terms of water depth and sufficient light levels. The project has involved extensive work with local stakeholders and the communities – who helped choose the exact location of planting – to ensure that it has a positive benefit for all.”

A million seeds were gathered from existing meadows in shallow, sheltered areas along the UK coasts, including the Llyn peninsula, by volunteer divers and snorkellers. The freshly planted seagrass will act as a natural waste collector and is expected to trap up to half a tonne of CO2 per hectare each year once fully established by sponging CO2 from the atmosphere.

Alec Taylor, head of Marine Policy for WWF, said: “Super seagrass brings incredible benefits for people, climate and nature, but it has all but disappeared from UK waters. If we can show that it is possible to bring it back, we will give the Government a blueprint for restoration that it cannot ignore. Our ocean has the potential to be a hero in the fight against climate change, but it cannot play this role without urgent, co-ordinated action.”

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