Isle of Wight Biosphere Seagrass Strengthening and New Steering Group

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A three-year restoration program aims to strengthen the Isle of Wight’s vital seagrass beds.

Test sites have been planted, including at Yarmouth and Seaview, as conservationists work to restore rapidly dwindling underwater plant habitats.

Led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Swansea University and conservation charity Project Seagrass are working with conservationists on the Isle of Wight, ARC.

One of the few underwater plants in the world, seagrasses create a complex habitat for marine wildlife, including serving as a hiding place for young fish, feeding birds in winter, and filtering water to make it cleaner. .

Herbaria at Bembridge. Photos by Evie Furness of Swansea University.

It also captures and stores carbon, making it a formidable ally in the fight against climate change.

In the UK, 90% of seagrass beds have disappeared in the UK.

The Isle of Wight remains a stronghold and it is hoped that this new project will help ensure its survival.

Leanne Cullen-Unsworth of Project Seagrass said: “Seagrass beds support and provide habitat for thousands of species of fish (including commercially important cod, pollock as well), invertebrates, birds, reptiles and mammals.”

The team began exploring the Isle of Wight last summer, carrying out initial habitat studies including drone mapping, remote camera work and dive surveys and more to gain a clear understanding of the local environment.

Isle of Wight County Press: Seagrass (by Project Seagrass).

Evie Furness, from Swansea University, said: “We have worked with Natural England, Ocean Conservation Trust and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to carry out extensive surveys of seagrass health around the Solent.

“Last winter we planted small-scale trials at three sites (Yarmouth, Seaview and on the mainland, Beaulieu) which will help us test the success and suitability of our planting methods.”

Meanwhile, the Isle of Wight Council has approved a move to put the biosphere at the heart of its plans and decisions.

Isle of Wight County Press: Jonathan Bacon, Isle of Wight Council Cabinet Member.

Jonathan Bacon, Isle of Wight Council Cabinet Member.

It will appoint an independently chaired Biosphere Steering Group drawn from all sectors of the island, including environment, business, arts and culture and wellbeing.

He will lead and advise the council, working closely with the new Mission Zero Hub – an island-wide partnership being created to work towards the island’s net zero emissions goals.

Councilor Jonathan Bacon, Cabinet Member for Environment, Heritage and Waste, said: “Through the work we are doing and will do through our climate and environment strategy, we will not only be protecting our island for future generations, but will improve our biosphere and do our part for the rest of the world.

“What we have here is huge opportunity and huge potential and now we have to work to realize that.”

Natasha Dix, Strategic Head of Contracts, Waste and Environment, said: “Every decision made by the Board will consider supporting, maintaining and enhancing our biosphere status as well as our sustainability strategy. climate and environmental change.

“We will work closely with town, parish and community councils to encourage and support them in achieving our aspirations – and we will challenge utility companies and our partners to help us make the island a sustainable place to live and work.”

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