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WWF Cymru: World Oceans Day 2021

8 June, 2021

Words by WWF Cymru, Climate Cymru Partner

Oceans are vital in our approach to tackling the climate and nature crisis. That is why our partner, WWF, recently teamed up with Sky Ocean Rescue and Swansea University to launch the biggest seagrass restoration project ever undertaken in the UK, called ‘Seagrass Ocean Rescue’.

Today on World Oceans Day, we explore how seagrass here in Wales is providing a nature-based solution with a global impact.

What is Seagrass Ocean Rescue?

Seagrass Ocean Rescue involved the planting of 1 million seeds at Dale in Pembrokeshire, to demonstrate seagrass restoration feasibility.  The project aims to initially restore 20,000 m2 of the marine plant in west Wales, but with the disappearance of up to 92 per cent of the UK’s seagrass in the last century, we have plans to use the Dale model to restore seagrass elsewhere.

What is seagrass and why is it so important?

Seagrass is a flowering marine plant that captures carbon from the environment up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests, making it a key weapon in the battle against climate change.

What has caused a huge decline in seagrass?

This has mostly been caused by coastal development, pollution – including runoff from the land, and damage from boat and some types of fishing activities.

Where does it grow?

Seagrass often grows in large underwater meadows, which absorb carbon and release oxygen, providing a nature-based solution to climate and biodiversity issues.

Why is it important or biodiversity and what species does it support?

Seagrass acts as a habitat for a wide variety of marine life, from endangered seahorses to commercially important juvenile fish species such as plaice and cod. In the UK, seagrass is especially important for fish and invertebrates, 10,000 m2 of seagrass can support 80,000 fish and 100 million invertebrates.

How has the community got involved?

We have worked with locals to develop an understanding around the importance of seagrass and the benefits that it can bring to the area. Community participation includes input into project design and the invaluable support of local school children and volunteers to help prepare planting materials.

So, what is next?

In 2019 seagrass seeds were gathered from Porthdinllaen on the Llŷn Peninsula, and prepared over the winter at labs at Swansea University and planted at the chosen site in Dale bay in Pembrokeshire  last November.

WWF hope that this project will create a model that will be used to drive mass restoration of seagrass in the UK. Current efforts to manage our domestic waters are fragmented and lack ambition, urgency and accountability. The UK will not meet its climate and nature targets without urgent and large-scale action to bring our seas back to life. WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue are calling on the UK Government and Welsh Government to create world-leading ocean recovery programme that is backed by legal commitments and investment.

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