Local News

Mapping Orkney’s Seagrass Meadows

Seagrass is a flowering plant which form meadows under the sea in shallow coastal areas. The meadows are extremely important as hosts for many different animals. Mapping where they are is a key part of the work to protect this valuable marine ecosystem.

a very large drone
The drone being used to map Orkney’s valuable seagrass meadows

Mapping where the seagrass meadows are in Orkney’s waters has been going on for a few years now but many people are still unaware of the importance of the plants.

Researchers from Heriot Watt’s International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) based in Stromness and other organisations came together on Monday 19th of June at the St Magnus Centre Kirkwall to share with the public what they have been doing.

Stromness Museum has also been holding events.

MSc student Katy Waring for the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme worked with children from Westray primary school on an educational outreach programme. The children produced an impressive array of drawings and writing recording what they had learned about seagrass.

The Orkney News has been following the ongoing work of the Seagrass Project and of other research taking place world wide.

Seagrass meadows are under threat from natural causes such as storms and disease, but also from human actions of pollution, including the effects of chemical run off from the land. The roots of the plants can also be damaged by boats. If the roots are damaged then recovery is much more difficult perhaps impossible.

The public can get involved through citizen science action with SeagrassSpotter which also has an easy to use App. to download. You can find out more about that here: SeagrassSpotter

Founded in Wales in 2013 Project Seagrass is a charity to research, raise awareness and get people involved around the world in reversing the decline in our seagrass meadows.

  • engaging the wider community on the presence and importance of seagrass ecosystems, the services they provide and current seagrass management issues,
  • supporting local stakeholders in the use of standardised scientific methodologies,
  • promoting and assisting with long-term monitoring of seagrass condition,
  • assisting with scientific research and supporting conservation and restoration measures that help facilitate the long-term resilience of seagrass ecosystems.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has developed a series of Snorkel Trails at various coastal locations:

  • Arran
  • Berwickshire
  • East Lothian
  • Lochaber
  • Moray Firth
  • North Argyll
  • North Harris
  • North West Highlands
  • Torridon

Click on this link to find out more about the Snorkel Trails and to download leaflets showing the Snorkel Trails and what you might see: Snorkel Trails You are also given advice on how to snorkel safely and encouraged to send in pictures of what you see

Fiona Grahame

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