Seagrass meadows are among the most common coastal habitats on Earth, covering at least 266,562 km2 in at least 136 countries. They nurture fish populations, weaken storm surges, and provide numerous other services to coastal communities. Seagrass ecosystems are biologically rich and highly productive, providing valuable nursery habitats to more than 20 per cent of the world’s largest 25 fisheries. They can filter pathogens, bacteria, and pollution out of seawater, and are home to endangered and charismatic species such as dugongs, seahorses, and sea turtles.
But an estimated 1-2 per cent of seagrass habitat is being lost worldwide each year, and a number of the world’s 72 seagrass species are in decline. Since the late 19th century, almost 20 per cent of known seagrass area across the globe has been lost. Reversing this trend is possible.
Our projects that secure a future for seagrass are aligned with out three core pillars; Community, Research and Action
Our Impact So Far
At Project Seagrass we believe that building a community around seagrass ecosystems is the best approach to generate both an awareness and understanding of these critical ecosystems and the marine environment more broadly.
One of our core aims is to help educate people on local seagrass issues as well as create an awareness of the marine environment. Working across sectors we can work collaboratively to educate and inspire the next generation, and in turn advance the conservation of not only seagrass, but the environment as a whole for the future.
Our Community Projects
Synchronicity Earth’s High and Deep Seas Programme supports us to roll out the wider use of our citizen science app SeagrassSpotter in Southeast Asia. Via SeagrassSpotter communities, organisations and individuals can engage more with seagrass meadows, learning about their importance and threats, while contributing to a global database that can help regional management authorities and other interested institutions to implement effective seagrass management, conservation, and restoration projects.
At Project Seagrass, we recognise that the pressures on our oceans are urgent. Since our inception, we’ve been focused on applied seagrass ecosystem research, geared towards making an impact in the real world.
Our research is lead by scientists at the Department of Biosciences, Swansea University and the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University. The team are engaged in basic and applied research into the structure, function and resilience of seagrass meadows within a linked social-ecological system and support the UN Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
Our research work is globally focussed and includes projects running in Europe, across the Into-Pacific, and the Caribbean and involves collaborators at a number of internationally leading institutes.
As a dedicated team of seagrass conservation scientists, we’ve lead and contributed to over 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles.
Our Research Projects
Funded by the International Climate Initiative, this project contributes to reducing knowledge gaps by engaging local NGOs and communities in the conservation of seagrass. NGOs are trained in participatory science to enable them to collect data and identify key seagrass areas. This information is then used to engage communities and decision makers in developing policies for seagrass conservation. In parallel, the project implements alternative business models in coastal communities to improve livelihoods and contribute funds for seagrass conservation. This enhances the sustainability of seagrass ecosystems in the Indo-Pacific.
The ReSOW UK project will facilitate informed management and restoration of seagrass for sustainable social, environmental and economic net gains for the UK. ReSOW UK brings together principal scientists, political bodies and NGOs concerned with seagrass management and restoration in the UK, and augments their expertise within a transdisciplinary research team encompassing social science, environmental governance, Earth observation and spatial analysis, social-ecological modelling, and natural capital accounting. The ReSOW UK project brings together teams from the National Oceanography Centre, Swansea University and the University of Stirling. Project partners include the Marine Management Organisation, Natural Resources Wales, the Environment Agency, the Global Oceans Accounts Partnership, Natural England and the Coastal Communities Network, Scotland.
Building on our previous research into the status of seagrass meadows around the UK, we’re now working on a follow up project using seagrass as bioindicators to assess coastal environments across the south coast of England, Wales and Scotland. In this project, we analyse seagrass leaves for carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, the amounts of which can tell us whether coastal environments are polluted with nutrients. Our previous research project revealed that sewage and agricultural waste were responsible for nutrient pollution that harmed seagrass.
At Project Seagrass, we know that by monitoring seagrass meadows, we can keep an eye on how they’re doing. And by underwater gardening, we can actively replant lost our seagrass meadows.
All of our action programmes, whether it be monitoring or restoration, demand working together; that’s why we believe strongly in Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals.
Our Action Projects
Funded by Seacology, this project will restore at least ten separate areas that have been scarred by mooring chains, totalling about 1000 square meters. Part of this project budget will be used to facilitate outreach, communication, and education with stakeholders. This includes bringing in a Welsh-speaking representative. We will employ our tried and tested restoration techniques, which will involve collecting and preparing seeds, then planting them by hand in hessian bags filled to protect them from the area’s high tides and hungry crabs. We will also install several kinds of new seagrass-friendly boat moorings, designed for different kinds of boats.
This innovative project called Seagrass Seeds of Recovery, will provide a blueprint for upscaling the restoration of seagrass to enhance the resilience of the estuarine and coastal waters of the Affinity Water and Anglian Water supply regions in Essex and Suffolk. A consortium of ten partner organisations has been created to deliver this project with Project Seagrass as the main delivery partner.
Since 2015, we’ve been monitoring seagrass at Porthdinllaen using the Seagrass-Watch protocol. We conduct quarterly monitoring at the site and have recently trained local stakeholders the methods we used to conduct the monitoring.
We have an ongoing voluntary seagrass survey in the Isles of Scilly which Natural England part fund. The purpose of this project is to continue to collect data to contribute to the ongoing condition assessment of the seagrass beds which are a feature of the Isles of Scilly Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Since 2013, we’ve completed a number of projects that have ranged in funding value from £500 to £300,000. You can find more about the projects we’ve completed below.
Seagrass Ocean Rescue (with WWF UK, Sky Ocean Rescue, Swansea University and Cardiff University) was the first full scale seagrass restoration project in the UK. Over the 2 years of the project 1 million seeds were planted over a two hectare area (approximately two rugby pitches) in Dale, West Wales.
In 2017, we were happy to be part of the launch of a new Dugong and Seagrass Research Toolkit. The toolkit was developed by an international team of experts, including scientists from Project Seagrass. The Toolkit can found online at www.conservation.tools.
In 2016, we were proud to host the 12th International Seagrass Biology Workshop in Nant Gwrtheyrn, North Wales. Attended by roughly 150 of the world’s leading seagrass biologists, the World Seagrass Association‘s ISBW brings together conservation professionals in order to share new and ground-breaking stories of marine conservation. ISBW12 was attended by researchers and policy-makers from China, the USA, Sweden, Indonesia, Australia, The Netherlands, many other countries, and of course the UK.