Call for more protection of seagrass meadows

BBC News reports, 27th June 2015: “Seagrasses — the underwater plants that act as nursery grounds for young fish — need more protection, say scientists.

Monitoring of seagrass meadows off the North Wales coast found areas damaged by the likes of boat moorings, anchors and vehicles crossing at low tide had reduced value to the ecosystem.

Seagrass is found in shallow water around the coast of the UK

Seagrass is found in shallow water around the coast of the UK

Fewer species of fish were found where seagrass was degraded, according to research published in PeerJ journal.

The seagrass studied was near the village of Porthdinllaen, in Gwynedd.

Researchers at Swansea University studied areas with both high and low cover over a 28-hectare stretch of sea bed. They also sampled fish living in the underwater meadows of flowering plants.

There was a three-fold reduction in the diversity of fish species and invertebrates, such as prawns, shrimp, juvenile cod and juvenile plaice, in areas of low cover, said lead researcher Dr Richard Unsworth.

He said that in the areas that had become damaged, there was “a reduction in diversity of the species and in the value of the habitat for juvenile fish”.

The seagrass is in a special area of conservation, which is a strictly protected site under the European Habitats Directive. However, despite this protection it was still being degraded, he said.

“We have a lot of legislation in the UK already to conserve a lot of marine habitats but these mechanisms do not have enough financial clout,” said Dr Unsworth.

Source: BBC News, 27th June 2015. For further details, see www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-33244000


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