Seagrass is a remarkable plant and it is increasingly being recognised for its essential carbon capture abilities; seagrass can be as effective at absorbing and storing carbon as woodlands. Since 2020 Valeport has supported seagrass conservation and is proud to now sponsor the LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES conservation project - the largest seagrass restoration, education and innovation project in England.
LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES is a £2.5 million, five-year marine conservation project which focuses on five Special Areas of Conservation along England’s south coast. The ReMEDIES project seeks to protect and restore sensitive seabed habitats which are at risk and aims to plant a total of eight hectares of seagrass meadows – four hectares in Plymouth Sound and four hectares in the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation.
LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES partnership to ‘Save Our Seabed’ runs until October 2024 is funded by the EU LIFE programme and led by Natural England in partnership with Marine Conservation Society, Ocean Conservation Trust, Plymouth City Council/Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum and Royal Yachting Association/The Green Blue.
Seagrass meadows stabilise the seabed, clean surrounding seawater and absorb carbon, helping to prevent climate change.
It has been estimated that seagrass around our shores can absorb and store at least as much carbon per hectare as trees in UK woodland. These plants are havens for many marine animals including rare seahorses, stalked jellyfish, and rare seaweeds.
These habitats are also perfect for fish nurseries, including commercially valuable flatfish such as plaice and flounder.
Seagrass habitats are threatened by anchoring, mooring and launching of recreational boats, as well as trampling from walkers and bait collectors. This project will provide environmentally friendly moorings, voluntary codes, targeted training and habitat restoration, in five areas across southern England.
The five Marine Protected Areas, set to benefit from the funded project are: the Isles of Scilly, Fal & Helford, Plymouth Sound & Estuaries, Solent Maritime and Essex Estuaries Special Areas of Conservation.
The ReMEDIES project, will protect seagrass meadows – a critically endangered EU red listed habitat which are easily damaged and slow to recover.
The ReMEDIES project which launched in 2019 has already achieved a number of significant milestones; 3.5 hectares of seabed has now been planted (comprising 2.5 hectares in Plymouth Sound and 1 hectare in Solent Maritime) with approximately 70,000 seagrass seed bags. During summer 2022 seagrass seeds were collected by divers from healthy seagrass meadows in the Solent and Cornwall. These seeds were extracted and stored in the ReMEDIES cultivation laboratory at the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth until they are ready to plant. As part of ReMEDIES, the Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT) is also trialling planting seedlings directly onto the seabed. They are currently growing square ‘pillows’ of multiple seedlings in the lab at the NMA which will be transferred to the seabed within the Voluntary No Anchor Zone in Jennycliff Bay, Plymouth Sound.
Global estimates suggest the planet loses an area of seagrass the same size as two football pitches every hour.
At least 44% of the UK’s seagrass has been lost since 1936. Seagrass and Maerl are delicate and can be damaged by activities such as the anchoring, mooring and launching of leisure boats, as well as other shore and water-based activities. Maerl beds are slow to grow, very fragile and do not recover from damage. That’s why, in addition to planting new seagrass meadows, ReMEDIES is working to protect existing meadows by helping recreational users to minimise impacts on these sensitive habitats through the trialling of Advanced Mooring Systems that help reduce impacts from recreational boating on the seabed, producing best practice guidance for boaters and seagrass location maps and conducting seagrass surveys.
Natural England and ReMEDIES partners plan to extend the benefits of this work beyond the UK to assist with international marine recovery efforts. Techniques and evidence gathered will be captured and shared with marine conservation organisations across Europe to allow them to learn from and replicate the work.
Prior to supporting the ReMEDIES project, Valeport sponsored a two-year seagrass protection and restoration project in Tor Bay (SW UK) and more recently Valeport has collaborated on a new, non-invasive method to monitor seagrass biomass on the seabed around England’s South West coast. The new technique, developed in partnership with Natural England, HydroSurv and the University of Plymouth is set to change the way seagrass meadows are monitored in the future; as the cost-effective platform allows surveys to cover much larger areas and enables rapid re-survey work as required. Read more about the innovative new method to measure and monitor seagrass here