Mechanisation Project

The Project Seagrass Research Vessel ‘RV Gwenhidw’ during mechanisation trials at Porthdinllaen, Wales. August 2020. © Jake Davies

Whilst large scale seagrass restoration might be new in the UK context, it is not certainly not a ‘new’ discipline, and in many respects here in the UK we are able to stand on the shoulders of giants, and learn directly from a number of successful European and North American Zostera marina restoration programmes. One such area for development in the UK context is the mechanisation of seagrass seed collection and planting.

Sam Rees is leading on our UK Mechanisation Project © Joseph Gray / WWF UK

Our Seagrass Ocean Rescue veteran Sam Rees is leading on this this body of work. He is seeking to build on the successful work of the team at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science which was recently featured on the The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet (Series 1: Episode 4 – Revive Our Oceans). The large-scale seed restoration effort, where 74.5 million seeds were broadcast into 536 individual restoration plots totaling 213 has so far resulted in a total 3612 ha of vegetated bottom from virtually no coverage before the restoration (Orth et al, 2020).

Dr Richard Unsworth, Sam Rees and Sam Petts during the mechanisation trials in Porthdinllaen, Wales. August 2020. © Jake Davies

At present, one of the major bottlenecks for conducting seagrass restoration at scale in the UK is the lack of mechanisation in the process. Collecting and planting seeds by hand requires huge numbers of volunteers, who working together might be able to collect 1 million seeds over the seed collection window.

The rationale behind this programme is that if we are to scale to the collection of seagrass seeds into the tens of millions of seeds annually, then we will need to pursue an engineering solution. One element of this work is this mechanisation program, the second element of this work is the seagrass nursery.

Version 1 of the ‘Seagrass Sled’ being deployed in the Zostera marina in Porthdinllaen, Wales. August 2020. © Jake Davies

If you wish to learn more about this project, then please reach out to Sam Rees via info@projectseagrass.org