Scientists aim to reverse the trend of seagrass degradation

Seagrass image

The UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is working alongside eleven principal scientists, political bodies and NGOs concerned with seagrass management, on the current Recovery of Seagrass for Ocean Wealth UK project (ReSOW UK).

ReSOW UK will provide scientific evidence and a strategic vision for ecological renewal. It will further facilitate informed management and restoration of seagrass for sustainable social, environmental, and economic net gains for the UK.

The UK Government has recognised Nature Based Solutions to climate change as an important component of achieving their target of reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050. Seagrass meadows create a highly efficient and long-term store of carbon in their marine sediments, providing an opportunity for their restoration to become a key contributor to these solutions. The project will provide the key evidence underpinning this solution by estimating the capacity of UK seagrasses to capture carbon dioxide.

Seagrass meadows are the powerhouses of coastal seas and have been neglected for decades, which has led to their large-scale degradation and loss. This loss now provides an opportunity for environmental renewal through large-scale restoration. ReSOW UK will promote long-term recovery and enhancement of the natural environment, whilst helping to mitigate climate change, improving sustainable commercial activity and promoting social welfare.

Dr Claire Evans, Principle Investigator of the ReSOW UK project from the National Oceanography Centre, said: “ReSOW UK provides a perfect opportunity to work collaboratively with external organisations and provide solutions and insights into the current need for Nature Based Solution to climate change. The project provides an exciting opportunity to deliver evidence to create a shift in thinking and policy change for how we perceive and manage the UK’s coastal habitats.

“Seagrass meadows are one of the most degraded yet potentially valuable elements of the coastal environment, providing a strong case study indicative of the social-ecological complexities in coastal environments of the UK. ReSOW UK will create a case study that transforms how we regard marine resources and how we move forward in the design and scaling-up of restoration strategies to enhance ecosystem services for the benefit of people and planet.”

The research from ReSOW UK will provide vital guidance on reversing the trend of seagrass degradation and will further support the UK Marine Strategy by contributing to clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse seas, whilst also serving as an effective source of carbon sink that helps to absorb carbon and reverse biodiversity loss.

The project will collect targeted ecological, satellite and socio-economic data to fill gaps in the current scientific understanding. Additionally, field measurements and information extracted from existing databases will be used to build a computer model and decision support tool which will identify where and how to undertake seagrass restoration with maximum benefit and chance of success.

The restoration of seagrass in the UK remains in its infancy; however, significant steps forward have already been made by the partners in project ReSOW UK. UK government regulators and nature agencies recognise that an evidence base and strategic vision is needed to make the case of restoration.