Seagrass in Loch Craignish

In 2021, working with Project Seagrass and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), we are pioneering Scotland’s first community-led seagrass restoration at Loch Craignish. The project is funded by the NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund. 

Seagrass, Zoster marina, also known as common eelgrass, is a priority marine feature, and seagrass meadows are biodiversity hot-spots.

 

Loch Craignish has ten small seagrass meadows totalling approximately 1 hectare, and while these seem dense and healthy, they are isolated and fragmented. Yet, according to Project Seagrass which has surveyed twenty-one Scottish seagrass meadows for genetic analysis, Loch Craignish is one of the most suitable restoration sites in Scotland.

This dark area

is a seagrass

meadow

Over fifty species of fish have been recorded in one meadow along with hundreds of species of invertebrates such as molluscs, shrimp and marine worms. By providing a 3-dimensional structure in an otherwise barren marine landscape, seagrass provides a vital marine habitat.

Feather Star

The areas selected for restoration are alongside existing meadows which are either inter-tidal or in very shallow water where there is no risk of dredging, fishing, or anchoring. We will be employing a methodology successfully pioneered by Project Seagrass in Wales: seagrass is gathered by hand, the seed is processed and dried and then placed in small hessian bags tethered to the seabed where it germinates.  We will be developing best-practice, low-cost methodologies using a mobile seed processing unit, and producing a “how-to” practical guide.  This can then be rolled out to other community-led seagrass restoration projects across Scotland.

Seagrass is also an important carbon sink, it sequesters carbon faster than the rainforest. However, owing to pollution and disturbance of habitat, 95% of the UK’s seagrass meadows have disappeared (Source: Ocean Seagrass Rescue).

Seagrass at a very low spring tide in Loch Craignish