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Scientists call on COP26 leaders to listen to the ocean in order to meet climate goals - ZSL and the University of Portsmouth

How plunging into seagrass restoration could help our coastline

Experts from ZSL and the University of Portsmouth turn science into a practical toolkit on how to restore seagrass habitat, which can tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.

seagrass meadow
Seagrass at St.Michaels Mount, Cornwall (© Lewis Jefferies)

A pioneering toolkit for restoring vital seagrass beds in the UK and Ireland has been created by conservation scientists; providing a practical guide for anyone wanting to help re-establish the natural ‘blue-carbon’ habitats around the coast.

Launched today, (Friday 5th November 2021), the Seagrass Restoration Handbook, commissioned by the Environment Agency, is the first-of-its-kind in England, and is an official output of the UN Decade of Restoration.

ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and University of Portsmouth led an international team of seagrass experts to create a ‘how to’ handbook full of practical guidance for local authorities, community partnerships, charities and environmental organisations who want to actively restore seagrass beds. Seagrass – the world’s only underwater flowering plant – is not only vital for biodiversity, but also a blue carbon store (habitats that can absorb carbon dioxide), helping to tackle climate change. As world leaders discuss the future of our planet at COP26, the launch of a practical guide to implement nature-based solution such as this, is timely.

Seagrass has been lost extensively across UK waters during the last 100 years, with recent research estimating that at least 44% of the UK’s seagrass has disappeared since 1936, with 39% of this happening in the last 30 years.

Often called an ‘ecosystem engineer’, seagrasses create a habitat for fish and other aquatic wildlife, connect different natural spaces, provide ecological services such as storing carbon and nitrogen, and improve water quality.

Over the past five years, several scientific teams, notably from Project Seagrass, Swansea University, and the Ocean Conservation Trust, have pioneered restoration efforts. The University of Portsmouth is currently doing further research into the connectivity between aquatic habitats, and ZSL Wetland Restoration Programme plans to apply the tool kit in the Greater Thames Estuary where over 300 hectares of seagrass has been lost.

This Seagrass Restoration handbook is one in a series of guidelines commissioned by the Environment Agency, including restoration of saltmarsh and native oyster habitats. The Native Oyster Restoration Handbook is part of a project led by ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and University of Portsmouth, and aims to support communities and local councils in creating native oyster restoration projects of their own. Earning themselves the title ‘ocean superheroes’, native oysters (Ostrea edulis) provide huge benefits to coastal waters by helping to clean our seas and acting as an important habitat for marine wildlife.

The handbook can be downloaded here.

Posted on: 05 November 2021

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