COASTWATCH SEAGRASS SURVEY 2021


Seagrasses are marine plants which have a key role in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. Long known as species rich marine habitats, seagrass importance for carbon sequestration and storage has only been discovered recently.

Seagrass – in Ireland mainly Zostera species – has been recorded in the annual Coastwatch autumn shore survey for a decade now. In 2019 the Marine Unit of the Department of Housing supported a qualified Coastwatch team traveling around the country to verify and map these seagrass reports. Coastwatchers had found new seagrass bed locations not registered on official maps and even extended the known range of Zostera marina significantly.

Surveyors also reported seagrass damage and loss. This is loss is occurring worldwide, often through ignorance and avoidable damage like driving or trampling over intertidal seagrass lawn; ploughing or dredging through sublittoral seagrass meadows. Loss has also been recorded by invasive alien species taking over and by excess nutrients causing algal blooms and epiphyte growth on seagrass, so they can’t get enough light.  Rising mudflat temperatures can cause die off in heat waves.

Coastwatch launched a SEAGRASS Campaign on World Environment Day June 5th  2021 to raise awareness for the values and plight of seagrass, help citizens find their nearest seagrass lawns and meadows and join forces to protect it. We would love you to join.

Materials include:

A Seagrass ID note and where to look for it (here).

A Campaign poster to help spread the word of seagrass values (here)

A Seagrass brief covering values, pressures, law and action needs ( here).

Guidance and report forms to find seagrass and help create a Citizen Science Seagrass inventory 2021 which will support action. Steps are set out in diagram below.

UPDATE late July 2021

A huge thank you for the flush of citizen scientist seagrass finds and your amazing photos of life in seagrass. Also, for important reports of loss and damage. Some have led to action trials already and to government submissions.

Interim results and thoughts will be shared on zoom on July 30th 2021. If not on our invite list please email survey@cosastwatch.org for this and future meetings.

More searches and reports are eagerly awaited from walkers, swimmers, divers, snorkelers, fishermen, kayakers paddle borders.

The search, verifications and site audits will run into August. A celebration of seagrass finds and pilot positive citizen action is planned in Heritage Week if sponsorship is secured.  Our seagrass can and should be better known, valued, protected.  

SEAGRASS Searchers look for seagrass, checking on old site or  potentially suitable areas: mudflat  for intertidal seagrass and sheltered clean waters for seagrass meadows. If you want to join and learn, use the Seagrass identification/ location aid (here).

Report: If you find seagrass brilliant!! Join the Seagrass Spotters. Photograph it and report back using Form 1 below. If a known site is threatened or lost please also report. Successful seagrass spotters might keep an eye on that area and tell others about its value and need to protect it. Message us on Facebook or mail with any queries.

[ FORM 1- SEAGRASS SPOTTING ]

Verify: A Coastwatch core team member hopes to come out to look at your find to see which species of seagrass you found.

Audit: Seagrass bed size and health matters. So if times and tides allow we try to survey it Ideally with you. Or you might start an audit yourself if there are a few of you. We have developed 2 methods:

[ FORM 2A - FOR INTERTIDAL SEAGRASS ]  This is closely aligned to current EPA audit methods with key parameters validated in a joint survey with Dr Robert Wilkes EPA lead in Sligo .

[ FORM 2B - FOR SUBLITTORAL SEAGRASS ]  and is still in advanced draft form.

Action: Based on up to date information gathered in these steps and local knowledge and support to act both on individual sites and for seagrass protection nationally.

Site specific action needs to be designed, tried, tested  and results  shared.  Two invasive alien species  Sargassum muticum removal sites were identified and methods designed and refined with volunteers – to be  both reported on and presented in August.