Native Seagrass Reintroduction
Common Eelgrass (Zostera marina)
Seagrass is the only group of marine flowering plants often located in shallow sheltered areas along many coasts of the world. These plants differ from seaweeds, growing bright green leaves which form dense underground meadows that cover sandy sea beds. Like coral, seagrass is a keystone species forming the critical base of an entire ecosystem and habitat. The meadows that forms can support thousands of marine species including, crustaceans, shellfish, polychaete worms, and fish. In fact, as a nursery habitat seagrass meadows supply 20% of the world’s fisheries, providing the perfect location for juvenile fish to shelter in. Compared to neighbouring sandy habitats can have over 30 times more species living within a single meadow.
Not only do seagrasses make fantastic habitats they are also a key part of aspect of global carbon storage. While seagrass only covers 0.1% of the seafloor, they are responsible for 11% of the organic carbon storage in the ocean. Combined with mangrove and wetland habitats these ecosystems are responsible for more carbon capture then the rainforests.
We are aiming to restore seagrass to the Tees estuary ranging from North Gare up to Hartlepool headland. In order to do this, we are using two methods based on commonly used approaches used by other seagrass projects. We are aiming to establish new meadows using a Burlap bag planting method.
An upscaling of the commonly used BoSSline method, we will be fixing large biodegradable hessian bags on the seafloor filling each with a mixture of sediment and seagrass seeds. Under the protection of the bags the seeds will be left to established and develop under natural conditions we will have simple eliminated the lottery of seed settlement. Secondly, we will be using seagrass shoots transplanted from our facility as a way to complement and reinforce the initial Burlap planting.
This method will see the Trust extracting seeds from seagrass spathes and growing them in artificial conditions. Once the plants reach adulthood, we can then remove them from the facility and plant them in the seabed around our previous planting locations.