The UK Government has recognised the need for Nature Based Solutions to climate change to form a significant component of the UKs target of reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050. Seagrass meadows create a highly efficient and long-term store of carbon in their marine sediments, providing an opportunity for their restoration to become a key contributor to these solutions. Moreover, in a time of changing management of our UK fisheries, the restoration and recovery of the nation’s seagrass meadows provides an opportunity to improve support for fisheries productivity through enhanced fish nursery habitat for important species, such as the Atlantic Cod.
These powerhouses of our coastal seas have been a neglected ecosystem for decades and centuries, which has led to their large-scale degradation and loss. In the context of generally improving long-term water quality and improved management of our coastal seas, this loss of seagrass now provides an opportunity for environmental renewal through large-scale restoration. In the US, large scale seagrass restoration has resulted in such ecological renewal, stimulating fisheries production and creating efficient and extensive carbon sinks. The restoration of seagrass in the UK remains in its infancy; however, significant steps forward have already been made by the partners in project ReSOW. UK government regulators and nature agencies recognise that an evidence base and strategic vision are needed to make the case for restoration, in order to improve stakeholder support, leverage financial backing and ultimately lead to the ecological renewal of seagrass meadows to meet our national biodiversity and climate goals, whilst supporting our economy.
The ReSOW UK project will provide this evidence and strategic vision for ecological renewal, underpinned by excellent science. The project will facilitate informed management and restoration of seagrass for sustainable social, environmental and economic net gains for the UK. ReSOW UK brings together principal scientists, political bodies and NGOs concerned with seagrass management and restoration in the UK, and augments their expertise within a transdisciplinary research team encompassing social science, environmental governance, Earth observation and spatial analysis, social-ecological modelling, and natural capital accounting.
The project has been developed in collaboration with UK and devolved government agencies, together with NGOs and academic scientists at the coalface of seagrass restoration and management. Where possible and appropriate, we will repropose and maximise existing data on the benefits that seagrasses provide to people and planet and their conservation management. The project will collect targeted ecological, remote satellite and socio-economic data to fill gaps in our understanding. Field measurements and information extracted from existing databases will be used to build a computer model and decision support tool which will identify where and how to undertake seagrass restoration with maximum benefit and chance of success.
The approach of working with people and key stakeholders in order to progress novel science and conservation reflects the trans-disciplinary experience and expertise of this research consortium. This will facilitate the development of applied online tools to enable the integration of seagrass into sustainable marine management along with the creation of novel science. ReSOW UK will promote long-term recovery and enhancement of the natural environment, whilst helping to mitigate climate change, improving sustainable commercial activity and promoting social welfare.