10,000 bags of seagrass seeds to be planted at Plymouth Sound

29 November 2021

Volunteers are busy packing 10,000 bags of seagrass seeds for planting underwater in Plymouth Sound.

Research shows at least 44 per cent of the UK’s seagrass has been lost since 19361.

This restoration work is part of England’s largest seagrass planting effort under the LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES partnership, led by Natural England.

The partnership’s restoration lead – Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT) – is carrying out half a hectare of planting at the end of November and early December at Jennycliff Bay in Plymouth Sound, where they planted one hectare of seagrass earlier this year.

Volunteers, including around 100 students from the University of Plymouth and City College Plymouth, are playing a vital role. They will join the OCT at the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth to pack 10,000 biodegradable hessian seed bags ready to plant.

Fiona Crouch, Natural England project manager for ReMEDIES, said: “Seagrass is crucial ocean habitat but has been lost at an alarming rate over the last 100 years.

“Our partnership’s work to plant new meadows and protect existing ones will hopefully restore and conserve the many benefits that healthy seagrass offers nature, people, and planet.”

Disease, pollution, and physical disturbance has all contributed to the loss of seagrass. But seagrass is important habitat, providing homes for sea life including juvenile fish and protected creatures like seahorses and stalked jellyfish. Seagrass also helps stabilise the seabed, reduce coastal erosion, clean surrounding water, and can be as effective at absorbing and storing carbon as our woodlands.

The OCT is also trialling an alternative method of growing seagrass seeds to seedling using hessian ‘pillows’. These biodegradable pillows are stuffed with seeds and grown in the special cultivation lab at the NMA before being transferred to the seabed. Like the bags, the pillows breakdown naturally over time, leaving only the plant behind.

Amelia Newman, OCT seagrass cultivation officer for ReMEDIES, said: “We’ve been working hard to trial new methods of seagrass restoration for the project. The advantage of using these pillows is that we can see the shoots come up and control light levels in the lab accordingly.

“Then we can transfer multiple seedlings – pillow and all – onto the seabed once the seedlings are strong, healthy, and their roots have begun to mesh. It gives them a great start and we’re excited to see the results.”

The four-year ReMEDIES project (July 2019 to October 2023) 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. In spring 2022, there are plans for another half hectare of planting in Plymouth Sound, which will include transferring the hessian seedling pillows to the seabed, as well as two hectares of seed bag planting in the Solent.

Find out more about LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES by following on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @EULIFERemedies, or visiting www.saveourseabed.co.uk.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Students from the University of Plymouth and City College Plymouth will be packing seed bags at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth on Monday 29 November.
Subject to weather, planting will take place in Plymouth Sound on Tuesday 30 November.
Media are welcome to attend either or both these events and interview representatives from Natural England and OCT.
Please note: media will not be able to accompany the planting team on the barge, but can film/photograph the barge being loaded and setting off.

Images and footage from the seagrass planting in Plymouth Sound in April 2021 is also available.

Contact Wendy Johnson (wendy.johnson@naturalengland.org.uk 07385 416345)

 

  1. Research by Alix Green, published in Frontiers in Plant Science journal, March 2021 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2021.629962/full

 

LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES
LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES is a £2.5 million, four-year marine conservation project to Save Our Seabed at five Special Areas of Conservation along England’s south coast, through seagrass restoration, education and innovation. It is funded by the 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. Visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/life-recreation-remedies-project

Natural England
Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide. www.gov.uk/government/organisations/natural-england

Ocean Conservation Trust
The Ocean Conservation Trust is an Ocean conservation charity that focuses on two key areas: habitat restoration and behaviour change. Following a conservation pathway that has been proven to work, the charity’s approach puts people at the centre, working hard to create meaningful connections between people and the Ocean as the first step to inspiring long-term behaviour change. This is done in tandem with more traditional conservation work surrounding the monitoring and restoration of crucial Ocean habitats, with a particular focus on seagrasses. www.oceanconservationtrust.org

Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
The RYA is the national body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sports boats, windsurfing and personal watercraft and a leading representative for inland waterways cruising.www.rya.org.uk . The Green Blue is the joint environment programme created by British Marine and the RYA.  It was set up to encourage everyone who enjoys getting out on the water or whose livelihood depends on it, to do so as sustainably as possible. thegreenblue.org.uk

Marine Conservation Society
The Marine Conservation Society is the UK’s leading charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife. www.mcsuk.org

Plymouth City Council/Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum
Plymouth City Council is a unitary authority and has hosted Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum since it was first established in the early 1990s. It has a vision for Plymouth to be Britain’s Ocean City and one of Europe’s most vibrant waterfront cities which is sustainable and cares about the environment and is currently working towards creating Britain’s first National Marine Park. www.plymouth.gov.uk

The Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum (TECF) is a collaborative partnership bringing together the key authorities responsible for the management of the tidal waters of Plymouth Sound and Estuaries European Marine Site. Under the chair of the Queen’s Harbour Master, members consist of five local authorities, four harbour authorities, Natural England, Environment Agency, Marine Management Organisation, Duchy of Cornwall and both Devon and Severn, and Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.