Reviving the underwater gardens of life

Seagrass meadows are fields of seagrass that sit in shallow waters along the coast of most of the worlds’ continents and are one of the most important systems in our biosphere. However, because they are vulnerable to many threats, we have lost an enormous amount of seagrass during the past decennia.

What is seagrass?

Seagrasses are the only flowering plants that can live underwater. Just like plants on the land, they have leaves, stems, roots, and photosynthetic activity. The plants’ long but strong leaves form dense meadows under the sea.

With the seagrass meadow restoration project, we are trying to rebuild damaged seagrass meadows and expand the meadows already existing. This is vital, because just like the coral reefs and rainforests of the tropics, these underwater gardens are full of life, hosting many animals of different shapes, colours and sizes.

Seagrasses occupy 0.1% of the seafloor, yet are responsible for 11% of the organic carbon buried in the ocean. Seagrass meadows are true carbon sinks and capture carbon at a rate up to 30 to 50 times faster than tropical forests.

Seagrass benefits

Seagrass threats

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Seagrasses are vital coastal ecosystems, offering numerous benefits. They provide shelter for juvenile fish, store carbon in sediment, stabilize coastlines against extreme weather, and serve as important habitats. Lush seagrass beds indicate a healthy marine environment and support biodiversity. Additionally, they act as nurseries for commercial fish, aiding in stock restoration and benefiting coastal communities.

Despite their benefits, seagrass habitats are under threat from a variety of factors. It is estimated that beds have declined by an estimated 92% from their historic extent due to decreasing water quality, physical disturbance of the seabed, coastal development, disease and increasing siltation. Around the world, an area the size of a football pitch of seagrass is lost every 30 minutes.

Restoring seagrass meadows is very challenging, that is why our partner uses a variety of restoration methods to understand how to best restore seagrass. Some of the used methods include direct “pick & plant” both in hessian bags and onto the seabed, seed injection, sod and rhizome transplantation and seed scattering.

The restoration work on the field is mainly planned from April to September. During winter, we focus on research and monitoring, so that we are ready and prepared when the planting season starts.

Marine restoration projects are not only integral in tackling the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, they also foster marine stewardship within the community, empowering communities to become active stakeholders in marine conservation.

Our project in Scotland involves local schools and youth groups, who come and learn about their marine environment and the important part they play in protecting it. Besides that, community volunteers are activated to join the project.

To ensure that restoration projects are sustained, Go Ocean implemented several measures:

  • Appropriate maintenance and monitoring are conducted for an average period of 10 years following restoration. This includes safeguarding restored areas from damage due to human activities, such as careful site selection, installation of buoys to mark sites, and posting advice for anchoring.
  • We endeavor to control threats and invasive species by implementing biosecurity plans and conducting rigorous surveys. Any presence of notifiable invasive species is reported to relevant authorities.
  • While acknowledging the difficulty in predicting the germination and survival rates of restoration activities, we strive to maximize success through careful planning and implementation of restoration methods.