Solent's underwater meadows get a boost in England's largest seagrass planting project


England's largest seagrass planting project begins in the Solent, aiming to give its underwater meadows a boost.

Seagrass will be planted by The Ocean Conservation Trust at a new restoration site west of the Beaulieu River.

The OCT will drop 20,000 biodegradable bags of seed, taken out on a barge, down long pipes which will land on the seabed, covering one hectare.

It is part of the 4-year project led by Natural England to help protect and restore the marine environment. Volunteers at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, North Solent National Nature Reserve, University of Portsmouth, and National Oceanography Centre in Southampton are also taking part.

Seagrass beds are a critically endangered EU habitat, but they help to support diverse ecosystem. At least 44% per cent of the UK's seagrass has been lost since 1936, according to Natural England.

Fiona Crouch, Natural England Project Manager for ReMEDIES, said: "Seagrass meadows are an important but threatened habitat. Restoring them means restoring the benefits they bring to people and nature - vital homes for wildlife, enhanced water quality, carbon storage, and so much more."

Seagrass is delicate and can be damaged by activities such as the anchoring, mooring, and launching of leisure boats, as well as other shore and water-based activities.

The project team will also be working with local schools around the Solent to introduce pupils to the importance of seabed habitats, as well as collaborating with other organisations including Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, World Wildlife Fund, Isle of Wight Estuaries Officer and Project Seagrass.