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Alderney Wildlife Trust leads on seagrass knowledge study

News | Published:

A NEW project will improve understanding of an important marine habitat in the Bailiwick.

Picture by Alderney Wildlife Trust's Dr Mel Broadhurst-Allen of eelgrass in the Bailiwick.

Alderney Wildlife Trust Living Seas coordinator Mel Broadhurst-Allen is behind a scheme that will develop knowledge on seagrass around the islands.

As well as AWT, the Biodiversity Partnership, Agriculture, Countryside & Land Management Services, La Societe Guernesiaise, the Guernsey Biological Records Centre and Seasearch are all affiliated with the project.

‘It’s a very important habitat for a number of reasons but the data we have on it at the moment is limited,’ said Dr Broadhurst-Allen.

‘We think there’s quite a lot around Guernsey. There’s an old research book saying Guernsey in the 13th century used to fill mattresses with seagrass.

‘We need to build up a picture of where it is,’ she said.

The project aims to increase knowledge of the presence, distribution and composition of common eelgrass, Zostera marina, a species of seagrass, in the Bailiwick.

Dr Broadhurst-Allen also wants to promote awareness of the importance of this habitat.

‘The habitat provides food and can act as a breeding area and protective nursery for juvenile fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and other animals – including commercial species.’

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She also said it was a good indicator of the health of near-shore ecosystems and can indicate clean water.

Eelgrass in the Bailiwick has already attracted the attention of off-island bodies.

‘Swansea University has been collecting seeds. They wanted Channel Island seeds because our waters are warmer, which they believe might mean they are more resilient to climate change,’ she said.

The seeds collected here will be grown along with seeds from other locations and used to restore seagrass beds off the Welsh coast.

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Among species that live in common eelgrass are seahorses, a species often reported to Dr Broadhurst-Allen but which she has yet to see for herself – she is hoping that will soon change.

‘Next year we want to look at what lives in it. There will also be more public engagement. We put on a training course two months ago just to get people looking for it and 17 people attended.’

Dr Broadhurst-Allen was pleased with the positive start and said she was looking forward to the project’s development.

n Any islanders who see eelgrass can report sightings in a number of ways including through GBRS at www.biologicalrecordscentre.gov.gg/submit-a-record/ or by emailing gsybiorec@cwgsy.net.

Charlotte Le

By Charlotte Le
News reporter

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