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Restoration Forth - Seagrass

Project Background

The Restoration Forth Project is a multi-year project which endeavours to re-establish native habitats within the Firth of Forth. The project which has the financial backing of Scottish Power, intends to focus on the restoration of the Forth’s native oyster reefs and seagrass meadows. The project is set to take place from now until 2024, and over the next three years 30,000 oysters will be released and up to four hectares of seagrass will be restored. The project will be under the management of WWF but will be a collaboration of scientists, charities and community groups with the intended goal of connecting communities with their local sea scape.

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Meet Lyle

My role over the next few years is to raise awareness of the ecological importance of seagrass meadows and the benefits that these habitats can provide local communities.

 

The objective of the Restoration Forth Project is to give community organisations and individuals within Fife the agency to take ownership of their local marine environment in order to secure its integrity into the future.

 

So if you are interested in learning more about seagrass and want to get involved in an exciting project, please feel free to drop me a line.

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The Forth

The Firth of Forth was once a thriving marine ecosystem which supported a mosaic of native habitats and species, however, centuries of transformative activities and large scale industrialisation along its banks, has led to a shift in the environmental landscape

 

The Forth formally supported an expansive oyster reef until our appetite surpassed their natural restocking ability, and as a consequence there are virtually no remaining oysters in the Forth today. Moreover, the extent of seagrass meadows present in the Forth are considered to be a fraction of their historic extent.

 

Restoration Forth intends to initiate the rejuvenation process of the Forth, by re-introducing these two species in greater densities it is hoped that these populations will be able to self-seed and propagate naturally, bringing with them beneficial ‘ecosystem services’ and encouraging an increase in biodiversity.

 

The UN has designated this next decade, as the decade of ecosystem restoration in response to the acceleration of habitat loss. Restoration Forth is a project that aims to champion the incentives outlined by this UN initiative.  

 
Image by Benjamin L. Jones

Seagrass

Seagrass is unique within the marine environment as they are the only true flowering plants (angiosperms), unlike seaweeds, seagrass flowers, develops fruit and expels seeds. Over millennia seagrass has adapted to the harsh saline conditions of the sea and have since gone on to spread widely around the globe, with seagrass species found in every continent apart from Antarctica. There are approximately 60 species of seagrass found around the globe, however, in the UK there are two recognised species of seagrass; eelgrass (Zostera marina) and dwarf eelgrass (Zostera noltii).  These unassuming species are responsible for a number of ‘ecosystem services’; which are the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human wellbeing, that impact on our survival and quality of life. The ecosystem services provisioned by seagrass include but are not exclusive to; sequestering carbon dioxide, improving water quality, preventing coastal erosion and providing habitat to a range of species. Seagrass’s ability to trap and store carbon in the sediments that they create has been identified as one of the many solutions to combating climate change.

Seagrass meadows have seen a sharp decline in their extent over the past century, with UK meadows declining between 50 and 90% during this time. It is vital that we give these habitats a fighting chance, by actively restoring seagrass meadows we can alleviate global biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change.

How to get involved

This project will be facilitated through citizen science, volunteering opportunities and through a marine awareness programme. Unfortunately, right now we are at the beginning of this incredible journey, so be patient there will be plenty of opportunities to contribute to the restoration of seagrass within the Forth. Please keep a close eye on our website and social media channels, so that you don’t miss an opportunity to get stuck in with seagrass restoration.

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Last note

Restoration cannot be pursued in isolation or seen as the only mechanism to thwart ecosystem collapse, it should be incorporated into a holistic ecosystem based approach, involving side by side initiatives targeting connected systems for the preservation of the ecosystem as a whole. It is therefore exciting to see so many initiatives that are ongoing in the Forth at this moment, through this concerted effort by RSPB, Stirling University, Nature Scot and Restoration Forth environmental monitoring and quality are set to improve throughout this decade across the Forth estuary.

#Generation Restoration

@SeabirdCentre

@ProjectSeagrass

@MarineConservationSociety

@EcologyCentre