World Oceans Day!

08 June 2022  /  By Esther Farrant, Education Officer

Positivity in Nature – 5 things we should all know about seagrass

 

Following the weekends’ Jubilee celebrations, we have never been more united and positive for nature as a nation than we are following the messages of hope for nature from the pageantry of the celebrations.  From messages of hope from Sir David Attenborough, to incredible images of our green spaces and ocean habitats, the agenda of nature recovery was clear and the message had a very hopeful outlook.  Here on the ReMEDIES project, we are also feeling positive that we are playing a vital role in habitat restoration and changing the tide on climate issues by restoring this essential carbon storing plant.  In celebration of World Oceans Day read-on to find out more about seagrass and why everyone is going bonkers about it!

Grass is something we may all be familiar with from walks in our local parks. What may be less familiar is grass growing underwater. Seagrass grows in dense meadows under the Ocean. It flourishes in our well-lit coastal waters, providing benefits many of us may not be aware of but which influence our daily lives. In this blog, we will show you the top 5 things we should all know about seagrass.

1. Seagrass is a flowering plant which means, just like plants on land, it has roots, makes seeds and needs light to grow. This makes seagrass different to seaweeds (algae) because they have no roots, relying instead on a holdfast – a hand-like gripping structure – to provide no nutrients or water but a strong anchor to a rocky seafloor. This makes seagrass the only flowering plant to by found in the Ocean.

Flowering seagrass

 

2. Seagrass grows around the world in both cool water and in the tropics. In the UK, we have four species of this super plant, two of which are found in the Ocean. Zostera marina and Zostera noltii are both species of Ocean-growing seagrass known as eelgrass. Worldwide, there are over 70 species of seagrass, found in a variety of coastal locations. Globally, they support an enormous array of life, including juvenile sharks and rays, as well as turtles and manatees, which survive by eating the seagrass.

Great pipefish (Syngnathus acus)

 

3. By providing a safe and sheltered habitat, seagrass is a nursery for juvenile fish. It also supports an enormous amount of invertebrate life as well as harbouring rare species such as stalked jellyfish and seahorses. This is of enormous importance to the fishing industry because the fish which spend their juvenile years in this nursery will become the adult fish our fishermen catch and deliver to our tables.

A female spiny seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) shelters is a meadow of common eelgrass (Zostera marina).

 

4. As a natural coastal defence, seagrass takes energy out of the waves approaching our shores. This protects coasts erosion and potentially damaging seas. When habitats like seagrass are removed, waves can become more destructive, washing away our coastlines. Without the seagrass roots, the sediment can also wash away under the sea, affecting the animals which live there.

Exposed seagrass (Zostera marina) bed

 

5. This amazing plant stores carbon in the sediment which surrounds its roots. This ability has huge potential for helping the fight against climate change. In fact, the amount of carbon storage ability rivals that of the rainforests.

Common eelgrass (Zostera marina)

This really is a super plant – it supports the fishing industry by sheltering juvenile fish, it protects our coastlines, and it acts as an important carbon store. Over this week to celebrate World Ocean Day why not take a walk in a grassy space and consider the vital role that plants, like Seagrass, play in our delicate world.  A value founded not just from the incredible environmental impacts of plants, but also that natural spaces can provide an essential role in our wellbeing, activities as simple as a nature ramble, or Ocean swim, or even just a walk beside the sea can have beneficial effects on our mental health and physical wellbeing.  If you’d like to take a closer look at seagrass and find ways in which this amazing plant helps us, sign-up to our newsletter, and follow our socials pages to keep informed on our restoration progress.  There are lots of opportunities for you to get involved with how we can help protect Seagrass, and other ocean habitats, so get on our OCT or NMA website and sign-up to a beach clean.