OVER half a million seeds have been collected from healthy seagrass meadows to be planted across the Solent.

The seeds have been taken from meadows around Osborne Bay, Yarmouth and Bouldnor in the Solent to replant in areas where seagrass has been lost or degraded.

Now more seed collection dives are due to take place in Looe and Falmouth, Cornwall this month as part of England’s largest seagrass planting programme.

The Natural England-led LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES partnership sees the collected seeds stored and cared for at the partnership’s special cultivation laboratory in the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth before being bagged by volunteers, transported back to the Solent and returned to the seabed over winter.

The Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT) is leading the restoration work on behalf of the ReMEDIES partnership and has already planted seagrass seeds across almost one hectare of seabed.

The ambition is to plant a total of four hectares in the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation, although the exact planting site is yet to be decided.

Fiona Crouch, ReMEDIES Project Manager for Natural England, said: "This is an exciting moment for our restoration work in the Solent and a real journey for our seeds as they make their way from the seabed to the lab and, eventually, back to the seabed again.

"As well as restoring seagrass, our partnership is exploring the pressures that seagrass beds are facing from recreational activities in the marine environment. By working together to reduce the impact that these activities can have on the sensitive seabed, we hope to minimise further loss."

Seagrass meadows provide homes for juvenile fish and protected creatures as well as helping to stabilise the seabed, reduce coastal erosion, clean surrounding seawater, and capture and store carbon.

But seagrass is now present in only half of the areas of the UK where it was once recorded, with factors including wasting disease, pollution and physical disturbance contributing to its decline.

Mark Parry, Development Officer at the Ocean Conservation Trust, said: "We are proud to be the restoration lead in the ReMEDIES partnership, harvesting, growing and replanting seagrass seeds to restore large areas of habitat and promote this amazing ecosystem’s recovery."