Over the course of the past year, SMEEF has been a proud supporter of Seawilding’s ‘Seagrass Restoration Project’. The project, featured in their new video, aims to restore and monitor ecosystems in Loch Craignish as well as share restoration knowledge more broadly with communities across Scotland.
Seawilding, a community led marine restoration programme in Argyll, focuses on seagrass and native oyster populations, two crucial components of Scottish marine ecosystem health.
Seagrass is considered a keystone species. Recognizing its importance, Seawilding has created a long-term project to reinforce seagrass in Loch Craignish and improve germination rates for planting seagrass. More specifically the project aims to:
- Plant 250,000 seeds over 2022-2023.
- Monitor the rates of germination annually of the seagrass planting.
- Monitor the health of the donor and control seagrass sites.
- Create a nursery to trial different sediments and germination methods for seagrass planting.
- Involve the community in all phases of the restoration project.
- Support local communities via the creation of green jobs and training opportunities.
Within the last two years the project has already achieved a great deal of progress. In 2021, 125,000 seeds were planted. In addition, over 100km of connected habitat was surveyed and 9 new seagrass beds were recorded and mapped.
Seawilding has been building the baseline evidence base for several years. Some of their key findings include:
- The Loch has faced an estimated 94% reduction in seagrass compared with potential historical extent.
- Seagrass beds host close to twice the amount of biodiversity compared to adjacent barren sediment areas.
- Out of the 155 species recorded in Loch Craignish, 106 of them reside in seagrass meadows.
- Even though seagrass beds only make up 0.4% of the Loch, they contain 68% of all biodiversity on the site.
- West Loch Tarbet could be a potential restoration site.
- The best germination sites were those close to existing seagrass.
- Local communities, through active participation, became even more connected with seagrass restoration.
SMEEF has funded several aspects of SeaWildling’s work including:
- A grant of £41,891 in 2021 to accelerate their monitoring and surveying work.
- A grant of £25,403 in 2022 to purchase equipment for the new pilot seagrass nursery.