Planting a healthier ocean - Zoological Society of London

An ambitious project to restore seagrass meadows in Kent has launched by conservationists working to rebuild the Thames Estuary ecosystem.

Working to help protect this habitat and reverse recent declines, conservationists from the international conservation charity ZSL are for the first time planting tiny seeds from dwarf eelgrass (Zostera noltii) across three sites in Kent including Seasalter and Elmley Nature Reserve as part of trials for the restoration of these vital, biodiversity-boosting underwater meadows.

Seagrass, the only flowering plant to grow in seawater and found gently swaying in shallow waters on coastlines across the world, plays an essential role within these marine ecosystems – offering food and shelter for the animals that live beside and amongst it – from seahorses to sharks. However, research has shown that least 44% of seagrass has been lost from the UK coastline since 1936.

Thea Cox, a Conservation Project Manager at ZSL said: “Seagrass seeds may be small, but each one is vital to recover this extraordinary habitat. Seagrass meadows provide essential nursery grounds for fish, food for birds, and habitat for a range of invertebrates – meaning they play a vital role in the health of marine habitats. Many seagrass species also help absorb and store carbon within their tissues and the sediment – meaning they can also play an important role in tackling climate change.”

Almost half of seagrass in the UK has been lost in the last 90 years – with 39% of that loss having happened since the 1980s. However, with evidence-based conservation action, we have the chance to reduce the pressures on this incredible habitat and restore lush green meadows at scale.”

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Posted On: 14/12/2023

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