Project Seagrass – Britain’s Oceanic Gardens
By Sound Diving
The water temperature is rising, the evenings are lengthening and seagrass seeds are beginning to germinate. A story of a group of young, aspiring scientific divers helping to restore one of Plymouth’s least known biodiversity hotspots.
The future health of the marine ecosystem is reliant on successful conservation and restoration projects occurring globally – every single day. We all share some responsibility in helping to protect vital marine ecosystems from degradation and permanent loss. A group of youngsters, affiliated with Sound Diving in Plymouth, have joined forces with the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) to help restore the majestic seagrass meadows located in our local area.
Why, you might ask? Here’s why…
There is an unjust assumption that British waters are barren of complex ecosystems and lack the appeal of more tropical realms – this is simply nonsense! The salty depths surrounding Plymouth are host to some of the most diverse and ecologically significant ecosystems found in the marine environment. They are as comparably productive as the coral reefs we all know and love.
Seagrasses are primary producers – the plant is a complex, habitat forming organism. They can transform bare sediment into rich nursery grounds providing a habitat for a plethora of marine organisms, including some of Britain’s rarest and most elusive species – notably seahorses. Seagrasses stabilise these sediments and can prevent coastal erosion and flooding during severe storm surges. Perhaps, and most impressively, these miracle meadows function as carbon sinks. They can capture atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide as they photosynthesise – giving us the oxygen we require in return. Scientists suggest that seagrass meadows are up to 35 times more efficient at locking in carbon dioxide than a typical tropical rainforest.
Can you now understand why these delicate plants warrant such close attention? Yes? Well Sound Diving sure does! Sound Diving plays host to a home education programme offering twice weekly workshops for budding marine enthusiasts. The youngsters can learn the art of SCUBA diving, as well as getting experience in outdoor marine ecology classes alongside local marine ecologists and fellow diving fanatics.
The education programme is united with Scuba Schools International (SSI) under their Scuba Rangers curriculum. This exciting programme is specifically designed for young divers over the age of eight, allowing them to marvel at the wonders hidden below the surface. For our younger members there is always an opportunity to try a spot of snorkelling, arguably the best gateway to SCUBA and where most of us started our diving careers.
The students recently got involved in one of the NMA’s seagrass restoration projects and helped their staff to plant over 6000 individual seagrass seeds!
The students helped to fill over 200 hessian sacks with a sandy composite before sprinkling over the soaked seagrass seeds. These sacks were handtied by each student before being carefully placed into the NMA’s specially allocated germination aquaria. It is here where the seedlings can grow on and produce stabilising roots and rich leaf growth ready for replantation in the wild.