In the shallow waters of the Irish Sea, off the northern Welsh coast, is one of the UK’s most spectacular seagrass meadows. These productive, expansive meadows provide many benefits, including:
Wildlife food and shelter. Many animals eat seagrass or other organisms found in the ecosystem.
Storm and erosion mitigation. Extensive root systems stabilize the ocean bottom.
Better water quality. Seagrasses trap fine particles and filter nutrients in runoff from land.
Economic support. Many important fish species spend part of their lives in seagrass meadows.
Carbon trapping. Seagrass ecosystems store three times as much carbon, per acre, as rainforest.
Much of the seagrass in Wales, however, has been lost. It is critical to save what remains, both for the benefits it provides and as a source of seeds for restoration efforts. In sites where only patches are left, natural regeneration is difficult or impossible, and active restoration is necessary.
The seagrass meadows near Porthdinllaen have been literally scarred by the chains used to moor boats in the harbor there. As the moored boats bob in the water, the chains drag on the bottom, tearing up seagrass plants. The denuded patches can actually be seen on Google Earth.
This project, Seacology’s first in the UK, will restore at least ten separate scarred areas, totaling about a quarter of an acre. The acreage is small, but the impact could be big. Project Seagrass hopes that a well-executed restoration project will serve as a model, paving the way for much more expansive restoration.
Part of this project budget will be used to facilitate outreach, communication, and education with Porthdinllaen stakeholders. This includes bringing in a Welsh-speaking representative.
The planting will employ techniques used in successful restoration projects in Chesapeake Bay, adapted for the UK marine environment by biologists from Swansea University and Project Seagrass. After seeds are collected and prepared, they will be planted by hand, in burlap bags filled with sand, to protect them from the area’s high tides and abundant crabs.
Project Seagrass will also install several kinds of new seagrass-friendly boat moorings, designed for different kinds of boats.