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Multi-lingual seagrass information posters launched

An illustration of seagrass with the text "Seagrass Information Posters" overlayed

July 4, 2024 Content Team Seagrass meadows provide a range of environmental, economic, and social benefits to people and planet. They provide habitat, food, and shelter to thousands of species of fish, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, and birds. Through their diverse use as fishing grounds, they support the creation of jobs and provide access to food sources like fish and invertebrates. Their leaves help to purify water, reducing pollutants like heavy metals and harmful bacteria. Seagrass meadows trap carbon within the seabed and, if left undisturbed, can store this for millennia. Their large and deep network of roots extend throughout the seabed helping to stabilise our coastlines. Seagrass Information Posters As part of a recent project, Project Seagrass has been working with Languages United and Green Standard Schools on the creation of multi-lingual seagrass information posters providing an insight into seagrass. The seagrass information posters are free to download from the Project Seagrass website and are available in the following languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Croatian, Greek, Italian, and Polish. The poster design was created by illustrator and science communicator Jack Cowley. The following Green Standard Schools supporting members were involved in the translation of the posters: French In Normandy, CLIC International House Sevilla, Humboldt-Institut, Scuola Leonardo da Vinci Milano, Κέντρο Ξένων Γλωσσών Βαρελά and Škola Jantar. Partners WHY SEAGRASS Discover why it is vital we save the world’s seagrass Explore More

Study projects loss of brown macroalgae and seagrasses

Four graphs outlining the present distribution and projected end-of-century changes in global macrophyte species diversity.

July 1, 2024 Researchers predict that climate change will drive a substantial redistribution of brown seaweeds and seagrasses at the global scale. The projected changes are alarming due to the fundamental role of seaweeds and seagrasses in coastal ecosystems, and provide evidence of the pervasive impacts of climate change on marine life. In a collaborative study between the University of Helsinki and the EU Joint Research Centre, researchers for the first time have modeled the future distribution of brown seaweeds and seagrasses at the global scale. They predict that by 2100, climate change will drive a substantial redistribution of both groups globally: Their local diversity will decline by 3–4% on average and their current distribution will shrink by 5–6%. More notably, the preferred habitat for both brown seaweeds and seagrasses will undergo a substantial global reduction (78–96%) and will shift among marine regions, with potential expansions into Arctic and Antarctic regions. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications. “We find it alarming that coastal areas worldwide will become dramatically less hospitable for habitat-forming macrophytes, as this might have severe and widespread impacts on coastal ecosystem functioning at the global scale. Interestingly, while global percentual declines in diversity show similar trends for seagrasses and brown macroalgae, the regional patterns are strikingly different between the two groups,” says Federica Manca, the lead author of the study from the University of Helsinki. Present distribution and projected end-of-century changes in global macrophyte species diversity. Credit: Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-48273-6 Why should we care about seaweeds and seagrasses? Brown seaweeds and seagrasses provide important ecological and socio-economic services in coastal areas worldwide. They support coastal biodiversity and fisheries, ensure coastal protection, participate in ocean nutrient recycling, contribute to carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation. As climate change is severely threatening macrophyte habitats and the services they provide, we urgently need to understand how both brown seaweeds and seagrasses will respond to changing climatic conditions in the coming decades. Previous studies have modeled the future distribution of these habitat-forming macrophytes, focusing on regional or local scales only and on a limited number of species. In contrast, this study is the first to provide a comprehensive view of the effects of climate change on more than 200 species of brown seaweeds and seagrasses at the global scale. The results show that the redistribution of these habitat-forming marine macrophytes will be geographically heterogeneous, and highlight the regions where the loss of macrophyte diversity and habitat will be most severe, such as the Pacific coast of South America for brown seaweeds, and the coast of Australia for seagrasses. Additionally, researchers have identified macrophyte species that will be more severely affected by climate change, like the Atlantic seaweed Laminaria digitata. The findings can help identify target areas and species for conservation, potentially buffering the impact of climate change. Surprisingly, and contrary to expectations, the models did not predict severe losses of brown seaweed or seagrass diversity in the tropics but rather at intermediate and high latitudes, such as along the Atlantic coasts of Europe and in the Baltic Sea. This indicates that end-of-century climatic conditions in these regions might exceed the tolerance limits of resident macrophyte species. The Baltic Sea is at the forefront in the rate at which climate change is influencing the ecosystem. “Combined with a legacy of multiple other disturbances (such as eutrophication) and low species diversity with only a few brown seaweeds and seagrasses, the Baltic Sea is exceptionally vulnerable to these predicted changes,” says Alf Norkko, professor at the Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki. “Another surprising—and alarming—result is the dramatic loss of highly suitable habitat for both macroalgae and seagrasses globally: Coastal areas worldwide will become substantially less hospitable for habitat-forming macrophytes,” adds Dr. Mar Cabeza from the Global Change and Conservation Group at the University of Helsinki. The disappearance of these habitat-forming macrophytes can trigger cascading effects on other species, compromising the integrity of entire ecosystems and undermining ecological and socio-economic services important to human society. Thus, forecasting changes in the distribution of habitat-forming species is crucial to raise awareness of climate change impacts and foster conservation efforts accordingly. “Our findings confirm, once again, that climate change might have profound impacts on ecosystems, promoting rapid and most often detrimental changes to the diversity and resilience of natural communities. In fact, habitat-forming macrophytes support biodiversity through an exceptional diversity of ecological interactions.” “Hence, their projected loss and redistribution might lead to unpredictable cascading effects, most likely resulting in the local extinction of many associated species,” says Giovanni Strona from the EU Joint Research Centre. More information: Federica Manca et al, Projected loss of brown macroalgae and seagrasses with global environmental change, Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-48273-6 This article is republished from PHYS.ORG and provided by the  University of Helsinki.

Project Update: Restoration Forth | June 2024

June 27, 2024 Content Team Restoration Forth aims to restore seagrass meadows and native oysters into the Firth of Forth, to create a healthier coastline for people and nature. Find out more about the project here.  Orkney seagrass trip Next month the seagrass team will be departing for their annual seed collection trip in Orkney. Following a productive planting season in March 2024, the team will be returning to Kirkwall to collect Zostera marina seeds that will be planted in March 2025. Restoration Forth employs a non-destructive method for collecting seagrass seeds, shoots are hand-picked by snorkellers and divers through a selective process to ensure donor meadows are not over picked. This year, Project Seagrass are working with Heriot-Watt University and local scallop divers to collect seeds from subtidal seagrass meadows. Prior to seed harvesting, the team conduct extensive surveys of the donor meadows to ensure that the harvesting of seeds will not cause a significant effect to the health or size of the meadows. The deployment of a dive team will increase the yield of seeds collected this year, by accessing subtidal parts of the meadow which are not usually accessible through snorkelling. Join us for snorkelling sessions at Finstown! Restoration Forth are organising seagrass snorkel sessions this July and August to showcase the rich diversity of marine life that live in these amazing habitats and to demonstrate how we collect seagrass seeds. Further details can be found here. Photo credit: Raymond Besant Photo credit: Raymond Besant Oyster Citizen Science We are very excited to announce that the new oyster citizen science activity booklet is now live! Our new booklet contains activities for everyone around the Firth of Forth to get involved in contributing to oyster restoration. You can find the activities and all the information on how to take part on the webpage here under ‘Help Restore the Firth of Forth’. The Restoration Forth team, with the help of volunteers, will be beach hopping around East Lothian, Edinburgh and Fife with the activity booklet next week. Please do pop by and say hello! We will be at Port Seton Links and Fisherrow Sands, Musselburgh, on Friday 28th June and Cramond Beach and Silver Sands, Aberdour, on Saturday 29th. Timings and more information about the events can be found here.  Oyster Observer Guide Update Thank you so much to those of you who have completed and submitted an Oyster Observer Guide survey. This information will help inform which sites will be most suitable for oyster restoration work. We so far have surveys from the following locations: Fife: Kingsbarns, Ravenscraig Edinburgh: Cramond East Lothian: Seton Beach, Yellowcraig, Morrisons Haven, Belhaven Bay, Longniddry (Bents 1, 2 and 3) Fisherrow Sands and Musselburgh beach. If you have completed a survey but are still to submit your results, you can do so here. Likewise, if you would like to get involved, the Oyster Observer Guide and instructions on how to take part can be found here.   Photo credit: Caitlin Godfrey Climate Resilience survey WWF want to learn more about the climate resilience impacts of their projects.  They are running this very short survey to find out more about the impact Restoration Forth has had on you, and your thoughts about local community and climate resilience. It should only take about 5 minutes to complete, and you will be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 Scotland Loves Local gift card.   Click here to start the survey  (closes on the 8th July 2024). Goodbye 100 species The inspiring 100 Species exhibition project is now finished, after having been displayed at Heart of Newhaven to the Scottish Seabird Centre and, finally, the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.  Edinburgh Shoreline held a little thank-you party in the Anstruther Museum for all the Fife contributors on 7th June.  During this the winning paintings from a local schools art competition, organised by the Museum and inspired by the 100 species exhibition, were displayed. A total of 480 children participated and, through their engagement, learned all about Restoration Forth, oysters and seagrass.  The Newhaven Community Choir performed, included one song specially written as a homage to Restoration Forth. Look out for videos on the Edinburgh Shoreline YouTube channel – uploading soon. In Anstruther there were 2,070 visitors to the exhibition at the Museum.  We are really pleased about the interest this project has raised – through the researching and making of responses to individual species and the huge interest generated through exhibiting them around the Forth. Several of our contributors have already engaged with or signed up for future oyster cleaning events, started regular beach events and expressed interest in future citizen science opportunities. Photo credit Karen Chambers.

Seagrass clone in the Baltic sea is more than 1,400 years old

June 24, 2024 Using a novel genetic clock, a team of researchers from Kiel, London, Oldenburg, and Davis, California, has determined the age of a large marine plant clone for the first time. This seagrass clone from the Baltic Sea dates back to the migration period 1,400 years ago. The newly developed clock can be applied to many other species, from corals and algae to plants such as reeds or raspberries. The scientists have published their work in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. “Vegetative reproduction as an alternative mode of reproduction is widespread in the animal, fungal, and plant kingdoms,” explains research leader Dr. Thorsten Reusch, Professor of Marine Ecology at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. These so-called “clonal species” produce genetically similar offspring by branching or budding and often reach the size of a football field or more. However, these offspring are not genetically identical. (a), Multicellular clonal species exist across the tree of life.  (b), Allele frequency change of SoGV due to the formation of new modules by branching or splitting. A new module is initiated either directly by the stem cells (that is, splitting) or by the daughter cells of the stem cells (that is, branching). Splitting reduces the size of the original stem cell population, while branching leaves the original cell population untouched. During the formation of new modules, the cell population undergoes a genetic bottleneck. c,d, The accumulation rate of fixed SoGV is independent of module formation rate. The tree topology depicts a module undergoing (multiple) module formation events, where the dashed line and the solid line represent the original module and the new module respectively. New mutations (M) occur at a constant rate, and only mutations in the new modules are depicted (with a different colour). For each timepoint, the vertical length of the colours represents the frequency of the SoGV within the module. Clonal dynamics in a single module (solid line in tree structure) are depicted as a Muller plot that shows the nested allele frequency of SoGV over time. The frequency of SoGV changes during module formation events, due to the bottleneck. Eventually, SoGVs are either fixed or lost. Under low module formation rate (c), fixation events are rare. Thus, many SoGVs have accumulated in the intervening time and are fixed simultaneously. Under high module formation rate (d), fixation events occur more frequently, but with fewer SoGVs fixed at each branching event.  CREDIT: Nature Ecology & Evolution (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-024-02439-z Previous work by a team led by GEOMAR researchers had already shown that somatic mutations accumulate in vegetative offspring, a process similar to cancer. Now, a team led by Prof. Dr. Reusch, Dr. Benjamin Werner (Queen Mary University London, QMUL), and Prof. Dr. Iliana Baums (Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity at the University of Oldenburg, HIFMB) has used this mutation accumulation process to develop a novel molecular clock that can determine the age of any clone with high precision. Researchers at the University of Kiel, led by Professor Reusch, applied this novel clock to a worldwide dataset of the widespread seagrass Zostera marina (eelgrass), ranging from the Pacific to the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In Northern Europe in particular, the team found clones with ages of several hundred years, comparable to the age of large oak trees. The oldest clone identified was 1402 years old and came from the Baltic Sea. This clone reached this advanced age despite a harsh and variable environment. This makes the eelgrass clone older than the Greenland shark or the Ocean Quahog, which live only a few hundred years. These new age and longevity estimates for clonal species fill an important knowledge gap. Particularly in marine habitats, many fundamental habitat-forming species such as corals and seagrasses can reproduce vegetatively, and their clones can become very large. The continuous production of small, genetically identical but physically separated shoots or fragments from the parent clone means that age and size are decoupled in these species. The new study now provides a tool to date these clones with high accuracy. “Such data are, in turn, a prerequisite for solving one of the long-standing puzzles in conservation genetics, namely why such large clones can persist despite variable and dynamic environments,” says Reusch. Once a high-quality eelgrass genome was available, work could begin. Another key factor in the study was that colleagues at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) had kept a seagrass clone in their culture tanks for 17 years, which served as a calibration point. “This paper shows how interdisciplinary interactions between cancer evolutionary biologists and marine ecologists can lead to new insights,” says Dr. Werner, Lecturer in Mathematics and Cancer Evolution at QMUL, who focuses on the somatic evolution of tumors which also develop clonally. Prof. Dr. Baums, molecular ecologist at the HIFMB, adds, “We can now apply these tools to endangered corals to develop more effective conservation measures, which we urgently need as unprecedented heat waves threaten coral reefs.” “We expect that other seagrass species and their clones of the genus Posidonia, which extend over more than ten kilometers, will show even higher ages and thus be by far the oldest organisms on Earth,” says Reusch. These will be the next objects of study. More information:  Lei Yu et al, A somatic genetic clock for clonal species, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-024-02439-z This article is republished from PHYS.ORG and provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres 

Catalyst Cymru funding supports Pride Cymru collaboration

Two adults are using DIS guns to insert seagrass seeds into sediment on the beach at Hafan y Mor. The sun is reflecting of the sea in the background.

June 19, 2024 Content Team This Pride Month we’re celebrating our work with Pride Cymru. Thanks to support from Catalyst Cymru, Pride Cymru volunteers supported fieldwork to plant seagrass seeds as part of our programme of restoration work in North Wales. The planting took place earlier this year in Hafan y Môr, Pwllheli. An introduction to Project Seagrass was delivered by our Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Jo followed by an introduction to members of the team. The group were briefed on how to plant seagrass seeds using the DIS (Dispenser Injection System) planting method and were also shown how to use GPS Navigation Devices and a Bathyscope. As a result of the activity which included Pride Cymru Volunteers, around 350,000 seagrass seeds were planted. Each volunteer involved dispensed around 1600 seeds. The plots will be monitored to assess germination rates over the lifetime of the wider project. Through the project Project Seagrass had the opportunity to engage new volunteers who now have a basic knowledge of seagrass systems and the work that we do. The volunteers can share their experience and recommend this activity to others based on direct experience. Sign up to volunteer with Project Seagrass here. This work was made possible thanks to the support from the Catalyst Cymru Community Grant Scheme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, administered by WCVA.

Project Seagrass head to Naples for ISBW

ISBW Conference Logo

June 14, 2024 Content Team Between the 17th and 21st June 2024, over 500 scientists, conservation professionals, and managers will converge in Naples, Italy for the 15th International Seagrass Biology Workshop (ISBW15). It will be two years since the last meeting in Annapolis, USA. The theme of ISBW15 is “Seagrasses in the Anthropocene”, centred around the fact that human activities are placing ever-increasing pressure on seagrass ecosystems at both a local and global scale. As a result of ongoing changes in environmental conditions, seagrass ecosystems have altered to an extent that has not previously been observed. The challenge currently facing the global community is the need to establish a new baseline and protect, restore, and rehabilitate the seagrass ecosystems that currently remain. Workshops Ben, Leanne and Lucy will be hosting a session on “Securing resilient and just seagrass social-ecological systems” which explores how we can manage and conserve seagrass meadows for both people and planet, with a view to showcasing how humans are an integral part of seagrass systems, shaping ecological dynamics both positively and negatively, that we can no longer ignore. Ben will also be co-hosting a workshop on the final day of the conference focused on Hypervolume modelling – a multivariate tool for seagrass ecosystem assessments. During the workshop, Ben and his colleagues will present multiple case studies using hypervolumes in seagrass ecosystems, followed by a walkthrough of the data and R code used to conduct the hypervolume analyses. Talks The Project Seagrass team will be delivering a number of talks throughout the week of the conference. Esther will discuss the threats that seagrass ecosystems across the British Isles are currently experiencing as a result of poor water quality. Within the context of an increased interest in seagrass restoration, the talk will emphasise the need to understand current threats including water quality, coastal development, and poor land use in order to conserve existing seagrass ecosystems, many of which are approaching their ecological tipping point. Ben will deliver a talk on the importance of capacity building to reduce parachute science and to fill gaps in existing knowledge of seagrass. Ben will present an approach developed through the IKI Seagrass Ecosystem Services project which sought to deliver site-specific assessments of seagrass health, and to evaluate the ecosystem services seagrass provides. As part of this project a group of six local NGOs and community groups at project sites (Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Timor-Leste) were empowered to assess seagrass with the provision of technical tools and capacity building. In her talk, Anouska will assess the role of temperate seagrass meadows (Z. Marina) in supporting fisheries and quantifying its commercial value using a Seagrass Residency Index (SRI) method. Using case study data from 7 UK seagrass meadow sites the research presents a contemporary picture of the economic value of seagrass meadows. Emma’s talk will present data from a trans-national study (Scotland, England, France, and the Netherlands) which investigated planting density and configuration in Z. noltii restoration work using core transplantation. Going forwards, the partnership will continue to assess the site-specific differences and explore effective restoration methods for Z. nolti Richard will present a talk on the interrelationship between seagrass ecosystem services. Posters Alongside the workshops and talks, members of the team will be presenting posters at the conference. Lucy’s poster will highlight the high variability in seagrass restoration success, exploring lessons learned and how learning from setbacks and successes can inform future restoration. Emily will present data from a number of separate trials examining the use of a range of substrates and additions, such as nutrients, to determine the most effective methods of growing seagrass in artificial environments. To find out more about the conference visit the International Seagrass Biology Workshop website.

World Ocean Day 2024 – catalysing action for seagrass

Dugong feeding on seagrass, Great Fringing Reef, Red Sea Credit Anett Szaszi Ocean Image Bank

June 7, 2024 Content Team The theme of the 2024 World Ocean Day is catalyzing action for our ocean and climate.   This recognises the fact that the health of the marine environment, including our globally declining seagrass meadows, requires significantly stronger local, national, and international action from both government and corporate leaders.  In this article we consider collaborative approaches available to Governments to fulfill their responsibilities to seagrass conservation in light of recent commitments made at the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).  Multi-sector partnerships for seagrass conservation In February 2024, parties at the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) COP14 in Uzbekistan passed a resolution that recognises the role that seagrasses play in supporting migratory species. This is the first time that seagrass’ important role for migratory species has been recogised within a global context with the resolution requiring signatory states to report on their progress towards seagrass-related biodiversity goals.   The resolution presents a significant opportunity for signatory states and one which will require a collaborative and cross-sector approach given the requirement for governments to report on the location of seagrass meadows, the migratory species utilising them, and the threats facing these important habitats.  The scale of this work will require significant investment which working in isolation is likely to render unachievable financially. Governments could instead opt for the creation of multi-sector strategic partnerships in deliver their reporting requirements and leverage sufficient funding towards this work.  One approach available to Governments could be to develop strategic partnerships with NGOs and scientific institutions to develop ecosystem service credits or other new financing systems. These marine credits could subsequently be sold as offsets to corporations or governments whose activities are having a detrimental impact on our marine environment which would in turn fund the work required to reverse this damage.  However, the effectiveness of any credit system would rely upon its responsible implementation and strong regulation.  Seagrass meadow ecosystems play host to complex interactions between local communities and nature (social-ecological systems). Conservation finance solutions must therefore benefit these communities directly rather than channeling funding to businesses or third parties.   Dugong feeding on seagrass, Great Fringing Reef, Red Sea Photo Credit: Anett Szaszi, Ocean Image Bank Dunlin (Calidris alpina) Credit: Emma ButterworthPhoto Credit: Emma Butterworth Brent Geese (Branta bernicla) Photo Credit: Charles Bagshaw The need for effective seagrass mapping to inform approaches One of the major challenges facing seagrass conservation and restoration is the availability of seagrass maps upon which the successful implementation of approaches such as ecosystem service credits will depend.  Progress and developments continue to be made with mapping methods including satellite remote sensing and underwater vehicles however the current picture remains far from complete. Utilising the local knowledge of indigenous people, citizen scientists, and researchers to build on existing data and create reliable maps will be essential to working towards the resolution’s mapping goals.  Working in partnership will enable COP14 signatory states to make steps towards global net gain for seagrass.  You can read more here.

Fieldwork Notes from our May fieldwork

A group of Project Seagrass staff and volunteers are gathered on a beach in North Wales as part of our May fieldwork. Our North Wales project lead is kneeling by a quadrat providing a demonstration of how to monitor seagrass.

May 31, 2024 Content Team Read our Project Leads’ fieldwork notes from May: Solent Fieldwork (Anouska Mendzil, Solent Lead) Solent fieldwork update: Day 1 Myself and Manning arrived to the Isle of Wight around 14:00 and met Becky. We had an afternoon of preparation including labelling pins and mini-buoys, sorting kit, sorting data forms and configuring the mini-buoys. Solent fieldwork update: Day 2 We monitored this years restoration plots at Priory Bay – all transplants remain in place and all plots with seeds (which we saw cotyledons growing last time) have fully germinated to become seedlings. We were joined by Liz, a volunteer, but also a Liz Earle staff member, making us a team of 4. We installed the mini-buoy and associated HOBO logger. I’m not convinced the existing seagrass meadow at Priory Bay is looking in a particularly healthy state, so I think there is monitoring requirement for this, there are however reproductive shoots present with seed development under way. We will be up on the early morning tide (5am) for Mannings project (data collection). Solent fieldwork update: Day 3  We started the day with 4:30 am beach sampling at Seaview for Mannings project, and managed to get some drone imagery of the meadow at Seaview and mooring scars. We also had a lovely surprising visit from a small spotted cat shark. We paid a visit to Cowes Island Sailing Club and met the secretary and dropped off some leaflets in anticipation for the club talk in November. The new Mermaid Garden (by Mermaid Gin) is part of the sailing club which looks great, so quite a nice full-circle collaboration and partnership developing between the three of us. Flo and Jo made it to us and we headed out for round 2 of monitoring at Priory Bay including the Solent Seascape Monitoring protocol. We also managed to download the HOBO data and get a few drone snaps here too. Solent fieldwork update: Day 4 We monitored our restoration planting sites at Thorness on the evening tide, installed the HOBO logger and Mini-Buoy, undertook Solent Seascape Monitoring and Manning managed to get another site for his project. Encouraging to see that the transplants from the donor meadow had reproductive shoots developing at both planting sites despite not having them when we picked them. Still lots of germination at Thorness but would say a bit slower and patchier than at Priory Bay Solent fieldwork update: Day 5 We did a bit of a recce at Ryde to show Flo and Jo the area for the seed picking. Currently on the ferry over to Southampton and will make our way over to Beaulieu. We utilised the evening tide to undertake monitoring of all previous experimental planting plots – the mud at Beaulieu is as glorious as ever and even got the better of a few of us. No growth in any of the plots, and fragments seem to have also disappeared. Most of the plot pins remain in place. We downloaded the HOBO logger data. Solent fieldwork update: Day 6 Myself, Flo and Becky headed for the early morning tide to do a recce of Lepe seagrass meadow. Surprising how inshore the meadow was and how different the sediment was there. Seagrass reproductive shoots are already maturing in this location and the meadow looks really healthy. Many fishers utilising the seagrass meadows this morning – they were after bass. Much of the day is cleaning, re-packing, data input and preparation for tomorrow’s engagement event. Myself and Manning are heading home shortly and Jo, Becky and Flo will attend tomorrow’s Family Conservation Awareness Day in Bucklers Hard. South and West Wales Fieldwork (Emma Fox, South and West Wales Lead) South and West Wales  fieldwork update: Day 1 Five of us headed to Llanelli, to collect 75 Z.noltii cores from the donor meadow. The core collecting was easy and lovely in the heat. The struggle came when we were transporting the 75 transplants (which equates to 75 kgs) the mile’s walk back to the van with a slightly wobbly trolley. Nevertheless, the team pulled together and we managed well for 80% of the way, until we crossed paths with a cockler in a truck, who kindly offered to take the crates for the last part! We have since secured access to the meadow with a truck and so tomorrow, when we repeat the operation, it will be a lot smoother! We found we still had plenty of time (very lucky to have a massive tidal window) and decided to push on and head over to our planting site. There the bamboo canes which Celia and I prepped two weeks ago were still in place and we planted out half of the cores before the tide finally started to come in. Ended the day with a debrief and ice-cream. South and West Wales  fieldwork update: Day 2 Today consisted of planting out the last of the cores in the remaining plots. It was nice that we’d halved the work for ourselves because it was also an opportunity for some stakeholder engagement, which meant we had plenty of time for chatting. A good number of people popped down, including Judith (Carmarthen Bay & Estuaries European Marine Site Officer) who helped us out with the transplants, Paul (Carmarthen Conservation Co-ordinator) who is going to help us tomorrow with his truck. Another debrief over ice cream to wrap up, before heading back to HQ to wash kit / prep for tomorrow. South and West Wales  fieldwork update: Day 3 Very similar to day 1, however we had a lift to and from the meadow which was amazing, much much needed to transport the transplants. We also put out a HOBO logger into the Llanelli planting site, before returning late to the warehouse and started prepping for DIS tomorrow. Emily meanwhile brought the Z.marina seeds across from the nursery to the warehouse, along with the Z.noltii which has been in the quarantine tank since August. This is staying in it’s holding tank until

North Wales seagrass restoration in Holyhead Bay

Volunteers supporting seagrass restoration work in Holyhead North Wales. Volunteers are crouching on the ground around quadrats monitoring seagrass.

May 30, 2024 Content Team Thanks to the support of local volunteers and landowners Stena Line, 50,000 seagrass seeds were planted last month at sites near Holyhead, covering an area of 150 m2. The planting followed on from a successful stakeholder engagement session held at Holyhead Sailing Club in March 2024, which was attended by members of the local community, alongside several local businesses and organisations. Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau Special Area of Conservation Officer Alison Palmer Hargrave said “It has been fantastic to start the planting trials on Anglesey. I’d like to say a big thank you to all those that took part and helped make it successful. We also met some great people at a recent drop-in session in Holyhead, and I’m looking forward to working with them in the coming months.” The two planting sites in the Holyhead Bay (Penrhos Headland and Penrhyn) were selected based on local ecological knowledge provided by the community and because small patches of seagrass were found in these areas. The team will be back in the autumn to monitor the planted seagrass to inform future planting plans. The spring planting in the Holyhead Bay forms part of a wider programme of work called Seagrass Ocean Rescue North Wales, which aims to plant seagrass over an area of ten hectares across North Wales between 2022 and 2026. The programme is being managed by WWF, in partnership with Project Seagrass, the North Wales Wildlife Trust and Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Swansea University. The programme is made possible with support from funders that include the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Moondance Foundation. There will be more opportunities to get involved in the project including future planting events, seed collection, seagrass festivals, and drop-in sessions. For more information about the upcoming programme please contact Alison at: alisonpalmerhargrave@gwynedd.llyw.cymru or to volunteer, please email: volunteers@projectseagrass.org

Seagrass meadows expanding near inhabited islands in Maldives

An image of a seagrass habitat

Swimming through the crystal clear waters of the Maldives, a nation renowned for its marine life, it could be easy to forget that these delicate ecosystems stand on the frontline of climate change and that seagrass habitats are in crisis globally. Now, my research, which combined hundreds of hours of fieldwork with thousands of satellite images, has uncovered something unexpected: Maldivian seagrasses have expanded three-fold over the last two decades—and island populations could be playing a part. I also discovered that seagrass is surprisingly three times more likely to be found next to inhabited islands, rather than uninhabited. So this flowering plant seems to benefit from living in seas close to humans. Seagrass habitats are expanding in some areas, to the surprise of researchers.  CREDIT:  Matthew Floyd, CC BY-ND Seagrasses grow along coasts all around the world. They can help guard against climate change yet they are frequently underappreciated. In the Maldives, seagrass meadows are dug up to maintain the iconic white beaches that are a frequent feature of honeymoon photos. Important marine habitats have declined in the Maldives. Amid this backdrop of environmental uncertainty, I have spent more than three years studying seagrasses here alongside a team of scientists. We found that seagrasses are faring remarkably well and one of the most plausible drivers could be the supply of nutrients from densely populated areas, such as tourist resorts. Every day, human activities could provide valuable nutrients for seagrass habitats in an otherwise nutrient limited environment. Food waste is traditionally discarded into the sea from the beach and rain can wash excess fertilizers from farmland into the ocean. As human populations and fertilizer use have both increased, we suspect that seagrass meadows have started to thrive and expand as a result of this increased nutrient supply. Additionally, building work around islands may create more suitable habitats for seagrass. Land reclamation is widespread across the country as the population has expanded by 474% since 1960. (A) Trends in overall seagrass extent in the Maldives from 2000-2021, (B) Seagrass area trends detailing changes across all 26 atolls from 2000-2021 CREDIT:  Matthew Floyd, CC BY-ND During this development, sand is dug up from the seabed and some inevitably spills into the water. The structure of seagrass meadows can slow down local water currents, promoting suspended sand grains to sink and creating more sediment for future generations of seagrass to grow into. Currently, nutrient inputs seem to be creating just the right conditions for seagrasses. But if nutrients continue to increase, there is a risk that the seagrasses will be outcompeted by seaweeds and smothered. Continued land reclamation works that disregard seagrass may also remove this important habitat. So the future of this Maldivian success story may therefore largely lie in our hands. The ecotourism paradox Although seagrass removal has done little to curb habitat expansion, it highlights a troubled relationship with the tourism industry upon which so many jobs in the Maldives depend. Because it can ultimately make water depths shallower, seagrass can limit boat access and mooring, and therefore interfere with daily life. The proliferation of seagrass in areas of domestic refuse has understandably damaged its image in the eyes of the public. But, by making coastal waters shallower, seagrasses reinforce coastal protection. And by growing close to refuse sites, they absorb excess nutrients and clean the water of pathogens. Despite being a vital tool in the fight against climate change, seagrass clearly has an image problem on the islands. As a marine ecologist, I firmly believe that conservation scientists—and ecotourists—have an important role to play in conveying the value of seagrasses. Conservationists must also fully appreciate the challenges that meadow expansion can bring to local communities, and understand how the needs of conservation and tourism may differ. There is hope. A campaign called #ProtectMaldivesSeagrass, recently launched by Blue Marine Foundation and Maldives Underwater Initiative, led to 37 resorts (out of a total of 168) pledging to protect their seagrass meadows. Additionally, the data from my research can be used to protect seagrass habitats and quantify their value to people and nature. Hopefully, the unexpected—yet welcome—success of seagrass in the Maldives is a cause for conservation optimism. And perhaps tourist resorts can learn to love their newly expanding neighbors. More information: Floyd, M., East, H.K., Traganos, D. et al. Rapid seagrass meadow expansion in an Indian Ocean bright spot. Sci Rep 14, 10879 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-61088-1  This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.