Welsh seagrass meadow sows hope for global restoration

Seagrass is a wonder plant but unrecognised and sorely neglected. This is a flowering plant with long ribbon-like leaves that often grows in the sea in lush underwater meadows.

It is an unsung hero in the fight to clean up carbon dioxide and the climate emergency. Its credentials are astonishing: it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests, stores 10% of the annual ocean carbon storage across the globe and locks up that carbon in sediments that can stay out of harm’s way for millennia.

Seagrass also gives sanctuary to many marine wildlife and provides a nursery for 20% of fish species used by world fisheries. It protects coasts from erosion by absorbing wave energy, produces oxygen and helps clean the sea by absorbing polluting nutrients washed off the land.

Seagrass is in sharp decline across the globe and has almost disappeared from Britain’s coast over the past 100 years, owing to developments of coastlines, pollution in the sea and damage from boats.

But this year a restoration project got under way in Pembrokeshire, planting 1m seagrass seeds on the seabed at Dale Bay to create a 20,000 square-metre meadow.

The restoration programme by the University of Swansea, WWF and the Sky Ocean Rescue charity hopes the Pembrokeshire project will spur large-scale seagrass restoration projects elsewhere in Britain and in the world.

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