Rare habitat found at Holy Island could be key to preventing coastal erosion

A rare habitat found on the Northumberland coast could be key in preventing coastal erosion.
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Lindisfarne is home to the last high-quality seagrass reserve in the North East of England. The plant has been found to enforce sediment in the event of coastal flooding, helping to prevent coastal erosion.

Seagrass meadows can also store huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere that has dissolved into the sea, doing so 35 times faster than tropical rainforests according to the Wildlife Trusts.

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Because of this, there is now ‘huge pressure’ on Lindisfarne to produce seagrass seeds to help reintroduce meadows of the plant around the UK coastline.

Holy Island causeway.Holy Island causeway.
Holy Island causeway.

Research and conservation project Stronger Shores has been studying the possible uses of seagrass as well as other plants like kelp also found on the North East shore.

Project manager Karen Daglish, addressing the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Committee, explained: “We have been awarded quite a significant grant from the Environment Agency as part of a bigger scheme to manage flooding and coastal erosion. We have been funded to look into ways to address these issues in the face of climate change.

“We have lots of kelp, but not enough seagrass. We’re working with partners like Newcastle University and the wildlife trusts on what is basically a research project looking at the value of these habitats.

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“Lindisfarne has the last high-quality seagrass reserve in the North East, which is found as you go over the causeway. Meadows have suffered from algae bloom and being sensitive to nutrient run-off.

“There is huge pressure on Lindisfarne and other areas to provide the seeds to restore it across the country. Seagrass root systems can enforce sediment in the event of flooding.

“When you talk to children about climate change, they automatically talk about trees – but I want them to go to seagrass and kelp. They’re the blue lungs of the planet.”

The project has also been working on a seagrass nursery in Hartlepool along with the Tees Rivers Trust to ease pressure on areas like Holy Island

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Stronger Shores is looking at the entire North East coast, from Lindisfarne to Skinningrove in North Yorkshire. South Tyneside Council plays host to the project, and secured a £6.9 million funding package for the initiative in January.