From fish to crustaceans, turtles to dugongs, sea cucumbers to sea urchins. Some of these species are permanent residents, while others are only temporary visitors, but each are reliant on seagrass either for food, shelter, breeding, nursery areas, or habitat corridors between other ecosystems such as reefs and mangroves.
Seagrass is critical
Seagrass meadows are among the most productive and important ecosystems in the world.
Found in shallow salty and brackish waters, seagrasses are marine flowering plants that support thousands of species and vital ecosystem functions.
Seagrasses photosynthesize to create energy and grow, absorbing carbon from the water and generating oxygen in the process.
Seagrass captures carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests and, even though it only covers 0.2% of the seafloor, it absorbs 10% of the ocean’s carbon each year, making it an incredible tool in the fight against climate change.
Seagrass meadows nurture fish populations, weaken storm surges, and provide numerous other services to coastal communities. Seagrass ecosystems are biologically rich and highly productive, providing valuable nursery habitats to more than 20 per cent of the world’s largest 25 fisheries. They can filter pathogens, bacteria, and pollution out of seawater.
Corals support about 25% of marine life and fisheries depend on the reefs for up to 40% of the catch globally. Coral reefs are places for fish to breed, feed, grow, and live.
Coral reefs absorb an average of 97% of wave energy and therefore naturally protect coasts from storms and tropical cyclones by reducing the impact of large waves before they reach the shore.
Every year, eco-tourists spend over $30 billion in tourism dollars visiting coral reefs and the communities that surround them.
Climate change is putting coral’s future in danger along with the millions of species that inhabit the reefs and the half a billion people who rely on reef fish for food. The warming of the ocean has led to coral bleaching and the destruction of coral habitats all across the planet.
Over 50% of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years and it’s estimated that without significant action, 90% of reefs will be dead by 2050.
Seagrass beds are vital to an immense diversity of marine life
Over fifty species of fish have been recorded in one meadow along with hundreds of species of invertebrates such as molluscs, shrimp and marine worms.
Seagrass meadows are very important for coastal protection - they hold the sediment together and stabilise coastlines and help protect our coasts from the coastal erosion. But they are important as well for commercial fisheries - they provide nursery grounds for a lot of the big offshore commercial fish species.
Seagrasses can help us solve our biggest environmental challenges. They purify water, protect us from storms, provide food to hundreds of millions of people, support rich biodiversity, and efficiently store carbon.
However, seagrasses are threatened
Globally, estimates suggest we lose 7% per year. An area of seagrass around the same size as two football pitches every hour. Protecting what is left is vital.
Threats include destructive fishing practices such as drag-nets, water pollution from industry, sewage, fertilizers and domestic waste, habitat destruction from coastal development and dredging and ecosystem imbalance caused by overfishing.
Seagrasses are struggling. Across their range they also face threats from poor water quality, physical damage, inappropriate boating activity, anchor dragging, insensitive moorings, propeller damage and bait digging.
The well-being of human communities all around the globe is also closely tied to the health of seagrass meadows. In some countries, loss of seagrass has had a serious impact on the livelihoods of women who collect invertebrates, such as clams, sea snails and sea urchins, from seagrass meadows.
Protecting and restoring seagrass is vital
During the last five years or so academics and conservationists in particular at Project Seagrass, Swansea University and the Ocean Conservation Trust, have pioneered methods that are leading to impressive results.
BOW scientists headed up by Dr. Sebastian Hennige, together with our partners at Operation Wallacea (OPWALL), SEAWILDING, Scottish Association for Marine Sciences (SAMS) and Edinburgh University are studying the most efficient and effective ways to restore seagrass.
Seagrass restoration planning is undertaken with an understanding of the environmental conditions prevalent at a chosen site, the key considerations being water quality, availability of suitable light levels and sediment type.
Areas selected for restoration can be alongside existing meadows which are either inter-tidal or in very shallow water where there is no risk of dredging, fishing, or anchoring. A methodology, successfully pioneered by Project Seagrass in Wales, means that seagrass is gathered by hand, the seeds are extracted and then placed in small hessian bags, lowered into the sea and tethered to the seabed where it germinates.
Sponsor a reef and watch your coral grow
BOW will install video cameras on the reef sending live video 24/7 back to TV monitors in the client’s office or boardroom.
BOW will cost effectively analyse, plan, restore, and protect a coral ecosystem. Our scientists establish the condition of the reef then decide on the correct strategy.
Every reef is different and requires specific coral species that will survive rising sea temperatures and the variation of acidity. Appropriate growing and planting techniques are chosen that maximise reef recovery.
For instance, for slow growing corals, advanced micro fragmentation techniques are used that stimulate coral growth at 25 – 50 times the normal growth rate.
As well as producing time-lapse videos of the growing coral, these monitors will also be linked to the time-laps and progress videos being produced.
The Mesoamerican Reef in Honduras
It is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and is in dire need of help.
Coral View reef, part of the Mesoamerican Reef, on Utila Island in Honduras is an excellent site. It’s in need of restoration and has a great deal of research history. The sponsor’s stretch of reef will have fixed quadrats to facilitate the measure of its progress by comparisons at different times. It’s also manageable and surveyable during a dive and will contain some charismatic coral stations.
Cameras will be placed along the section to also include time-laps photography to condense time and show the restoration evolution over months and years.
The sponsor will have a dedicated camera placed on their section of the reef with a live video link to a TV monitor in their boardroom, office or home. This monitor will also have access to the documentaries, progress videos and time-laps films produced on the reef.
Educational research platform
As well as restoring the coral, a database and interactive website will be produced of all coral growing and restoration along the reef for the use of students at all levels anywhere in the world. They will have access to on-site instruments measuring, salinity, sea temperature, PH, currents, light absorption, tides and meteorological conditions.
A remotely controlled 360º VR camera on a U/W drone is also being developed which can also be controlled by the student.
The website will also allow interactive communication between students and the onsite teams. The database will gradually include more and more information from other reefs for comparisons.
This takes “online learning” out of the range of passive consumption (e.g. videos, remote lectures, electronic examination etc.) and into to the vibrant world of real field research.
The result is a dynamic, custom research platform that makes science come alive!
TO SPONSOR A REEF email:
Blue Ocean Watch (BOW)
is a Scottish and Irish based non-profit organization
committed to protecting and promoting
our planet’s most valuable asset: WATER.
Our team consists of world class research scientists in oceanography and marine biology, award-winning filmmakers and writers,
and specialists in digital technology, 360° and extended time-lapse filming, media and education.
Save the red coral of Sardinia
Fundraising Campaign : https://donorbox.org/save-the-red-coral-of-sardinia
Sardinia is famous for its red coral. It used to be found in abundance as shallow as 20 meters but this is no longer the case. Due to over exploitation and ocean acidification driven by climate change, red coral is now only found much deeper, at around 120 meters or more.
Blue Ocean Watch together with Nuraxi and Operation Wallacea, have teamed up to restore the red coral around Sardinia.
Blue Ocean Watch scientists are developing the most innovative, fast techniques for restoring and protecting reefs through growth and grafting of native red coral.
For this work to be possible, we need support from people like you, governments and local aquaculture specialists to have a lasting effect.
This coming May, Nuraxi has generously offered to host an exclusive fundraising event at their flagship restaurant in Alghero, Sardinia when local dignitaries, philanthropists and corporate heads will gather to explore the best ways of collaborating to make this mission possible and to ensure that the restoration is sustainable for decades to come.
Many people still deny the impact climate change is having – they turn a blind eye to the bleached and dying reefs.
To break through that misinformation and support this restoration effort, Blue Ocean Watch will tell the story through a visual medium – video.
To fund the development of this video, we need your help.
By utilizing local partnerships to keep costs low, we need to raise only 5,000 Euros. We have already begun the hard work of identifying grants, partners and the local specialists to bring this restoration about. Won’t you help us by giving what you can – every little bit counts!
By giving even a little, you will be making a big change.
If you can’t give anything, you can still help by sharing this post on your social media.
Please help in any way you can.
This is your chance to make a change, to have a direct impact on restoring red coral and take one more step in healing our ocean.
Our chief coral and seagrass scientists
Heading up all BOW initiatives is Professor Alexander More, our chief climate change scientist with Harvard University.
Leading the coral growing and seagrass restoration are Dr. Sebastien Hennige and Professor Murray Roberts, experts on coral reefs and seagrass both with Edinburgh University.
Our partners Operation Wallacea (OpWall) headed up by Dr. Dan Exton, provide and supervise PhD students to run all site operations.
OpWall is allied to countless universities worldwide.
Research is supported by three types of students:
- SCHOOLS – groups of 16-18-year-old school students from thirty-five countries, led by their teachers, who are generally studying biology, geography or environmental science.
- RESEARCH ASSISTANTS – university students who join to get broad experience in field research.
- DISSERTATIONS – university students who join to collect data for their undergraduate of masters level dissertation/thesis projects.
WE ARE THE INTERFACE
AND THE PEOPLE
The BOW Philosophy
Blue Ocean Watch began life as a rallying call to arms amongst a group of filmmakers and scientists who were united in a deep passion for engaging with and ultimately seeking ways to resolve the precipitous situation the planet’s oceans face due to decades of pollution, overfishing and dumping of waste.
BOW is a formally established non-profit association consisting of award-winning filmmakers and writers, vastly experienced sailors and explorers alongside world class research scientists in oceanography, marine biology, technology and education. All are seeking to create and support the BOW online platform which acts as the portal for oceanic and marine research to reach educational institutes and social media, to translate complicated scientific endeavours into understandable, actionable, accessible information. Due to the diversity of our contributors, the resources of scientific knowledge and data that we will accumulate over time will be unparalleled.
BOW is not simply a platform for distribution, but it will actively encourage and foster a dialogue and interaction with its audience, for example enabling university students to talk live with on-board scientists and also remotely operate probes and measuring instruments on the boats.
At no other times in man’s history have we been so well equipped to document and communicate our scientific observations, activities and findings. Blue Ocean Watch will take you beneath the waves to explore this special environment, this extraordinary world. Through the eyes of marine biologists, oceanographers, palaeontologists, and maritime biochemists, we will see this submarine world in a new way. Not alien, but familiar. Not hostile, but intrinsic to our survival. Historically, research scientists have mainly worked alone within their own agenda unable to benefit from a wider sharing of their results with other scientists – until now.
Education is a free right
BOW’s goal is to research, produce and deliver engaging educational pathways from pre-school to postgraduate studies that will be delivered free of charge to any educational institution.
Our educational videos, documentary films and social media postings will cover every aspect of our ocean’s health.
Acting for a living science
There are other tremendous philanthropic and government sponsored projects creating amazing media material and scientific insights – we intend to partner with many of them – however, what is missing currently is a co-ordinated, dedicated organisation whose central aim is to take this material and provide an education-focused distribution platform for its dissemination truly worldwide and actively engaging with those who matter most in education, the teachers and their students. Science seems to have lost its identity of discovery through adventure, while cold sterile laboratories are not inspiring or engaging. We need to rekindle this spirit of adventure in science, to make children want to tune in to what’s happening. Sailing ships, free, under sail on the ocean, is as much a symbol of adventure as it is a marine research facility. It is the focus of our foundation, its identity, and it will inspire students to participate in our work. It will help make education active, living and exciting exploration instead of a passive assimilation of data.
Green tech in operation
Everywhere the vessels dock will give occasions for scientific events, increasing awareness of our work. Students will be able to participate in research on board, bringing their studies to life in a life-changing experience. Our sailing vessels, as working facilities have minimal carbon footprints so our platform presents itself clearly as part of the solution and not a part of the problem. It showcases green tech in operation in the real world on a daily basis. Theory put into practice. The Blue Ocean Watch boats also afford us an unparalleled level of autonomy, where we can study what we want where we want without the possible constraints of another organisation’s agenda or the special interests of their funding stream.
Having UNESCO as our partner provides BOW an unprecedented worlwide network of educational institutions across more than a hundred of countries.
BOW’s goal is to research, produce and deliver engaging educational institution.
Our educational videos, documentary film and social media posting will cover every aspect of our ocean’s health.
We are truly global organisation with a growing fleet of sailing research vessels with onboard scientists, video production facilities below deck, underwater film teams, the latest technology including drones, ROVs, 360 degree and fluorescent cameras.
From our blog