Seagrass is the only flowering plant that lives underwater.
Photo by Fiona Crouch, Natural England
Seagrass (sometimes called eelgrass) is the only flowering plant that lives underwater and it forms large meadows that provide a home for fascinating species like pipefish, spider crabs and seahorses.
Seagrass also supports important local fisheries for sea bass and cuttlefish. Seagrass meadows are one of the most efficient habitats on earth at absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away into sediments. Along with saltmarsh they also provide natural protection to the coast, absorbing the energy of the waves and helping to protect against the impact of climate change.
There used to be a lot more seagrass in the Solent but since the 1930s there has been a loss of around 95%, largely due to outbreaks of disease and slime mould. Recovery has been weak and seagrass is now under increased pressure from reduced water quality and the impacts of destructive anchoring and some fishing methods.
The mud, seagrass, saltmarsh and the wildlife of the Western Yar Estuary are extremely important and are protected under national and international law. The Western Yar is part of the network of Marine Protected Areas that include important sites on both sides of the Solent. Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners and the Estuaries Partnership work with other organisations across the Solent to look after these areas, gathering information to improve our understanding and develop projects to help protect them.
Visitors to Yarmouth can make a positive difference by enjoying and respecting these habitats, and the wildlife they support. Being careful around wildlife both on and off the water, controlling your dog near birds or simply being careful not to drop litter can all make a difference.
Boaters can play an important role in helping to protect seagrass meadows, which can be damaged by poor anchoring and some types of moorings. The RYA and The Green Blue has some great advice on their website, including a really useful new Green Guide to Anchoring and Moorings and other boating guides that can be downloaded for free.