Plymouth’s underwater success story for COP26

29 October 2021

Planting grass on the seabed in Plymouth is one of the UK’s green success stories being shared at COP26 in Glasgow.

The ambition to take seagrass seeds from healthy underwater meadows, cultivate them in the laboratory and then plant a total of eight hectares sounds like science fiction. But already one hectare – the equivalent of 2.5 football fields – has been planted at Plymouth Sound Special Area of Conservation (SAC) earlier this year. A further half hectare will be added in late November and early December.

Visitors enjoying the Green Zone programme of events at Glasgow Science Centre will hear the story of England’s largest seagrass planting effort thanks to the LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES partnership, along with other nature-based solutions from Natural England at the Inter-Agency Climate Change Group stand.

Fiona Crouch, the ReMEDIES project manager for Natural England, said: “The seabed is a mostly hidden environment but its features are important for wildlife and people.

“Collecting and cultivating seagrass seeds before replanting them is a first for England at this scale. But it is only part of the job. Raising awareness of these sensitive seabed habitats, their location and importance, and inspiring people to care for them is vital if our work is to have a lasting impact. And being at COP26 to share this message will only help.”

Seagrass meadows provide important habitat for young fish and for protected creatures like seahorses and stalked jellyfish. Seagrass also helps clean the water as well as capturing and storing carbon. But recent research has suggested that the UK may have lost up to 92 per cent of its seagrass1. Natural England is leading the four-year, £2.5m partnership, funded by the EU Life Programme, to protect and restore seabed habitats in five SACs in southern England.

ReMEDIES’ restoration lead – the Ocean Conservation Trust – aims to plant four hectares of seagrass in Plymouth Sound and four hectares in the Solent Maritime SAC.

ReMEDIES is also working to protect existing seagrass meadows. Through its partner, the Royal Yachting Association, it is engaging the recreational boating community to find out more about the impact of anchoring and mooring practices on the seabed and share best practice guidance with boaters. It is also trialling and installing Advanced Mooring Systems (AMS) for boats. These systems are specially designed to reduce interaction with the seabed.

ENDS 
 
EDITORS NOTES 

There will be a media opportunity to see volunteers packing seagrass seed bags and the restoration team deploying the bags across half a hectare within Plymouth Sound at the end of November and early December. If you would like to send a journalist or stay updated on this story, contact ian.matuszczyk@environment-agency.gov.uk.

LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES is led by Natural England and funded by the EU LIFE Programme. It is a partnership with Ocean Conservation Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Royal Yachting Association and Plymouth City Council/Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum.

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

Further information on the 12 case studies from across the UK can be seen on the JNCC website here from 1 November jncc.gov.uk/iaccg-nbs-case-studies/

The UK Inter-agency Climate Change Group (IACCG) brings together representatives from the UK environmental agencies to update on climate change policy and evidence developments across the four UK nations, identifying common areas of interest and sharing experience. Its membership includes:

  • Natural England
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • NatureScot
  • Northern Ireland Environment Agency
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
  • Environment Agency
  • Scottish Forestry
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Forestry Commission
  • Forestry England

The IACCG will exhibit some of the best examples of the UJ’s nature-based solutions projects on its stand (C8) in the Green Zone on Tuesday 2 November 2021.