Gavin Black and Danuta Kochanowska
Inventory of Eelgrass Beds
in Devon and Dorset 2004
Gavin Black & Danuta Kochanowska
Published by Dorset Environmental Records Centre
Eelgrass is both nationally and internationally an important marine flowering
plant found in coastal waters. Eelgrass species are protected under the Berne
Convention, although not covered as a species within Biodiversity Action Plans
(BAPs), but labelled a priority habitat of the UK due to its scarcity and
conservation value as a Habitat Action Plan (HAP).
Eelgrass was once more abundant than it is now, having been affected by two
bouts of the “wasting disease” (Labyrinthula sp.), in the 1930s and then
again in the early 1980s. The threats that are now known to be damaging the
existing beds include high nutrient levels, climate change, damage from anchors
and boat propellers, and by destructive fishing practices.
In Dorset, eelgrass beds form in shallow sheltered waters such as
Studland Bay and in saline lagoons, for example The Fleet. Eelgrass
provides a unique habitat for many animals and plants that live on or
amongst the fronds or within the sediment. Amongst the eelgrass beds live
cuttlefish, pipefish, wrasse, delicate seahares and seahorses. Eelgrass
meadows provide vital nursery areas for flatfish as found at Poole Bay and
the plant is a key food source for wildfowl such as Brent geese that are
commonly seen within The Fleet. In this Inventory, records have been
mapped to show the distribution of beds, to include anecdotal records such
as drift material from the coasts of Dorset and Devon. The inventory also
information on the taxonomic status and ecology of British eelgrass
species (Zostera sp.), a summary of statutory / voluntary
requirements and actions, current work on eelgrass beds, as well as a
concise review of current methodologies for surveying eelgrass. A review
of UK management measures and recommendations for future survey and
research techniques have also been described.
The report provides an insight into Dorset and Devon’s known-recorded areas
of eelgrass beds to the best of the knowledge available at the time. The Inventory
can be used as an aid to those who are or will be involved in managing the coast
and tackling issues that threaten it, as well as to identify areas where re-surveying
may be needed. This Inventory highlights the fact that eelgrass beds are under threat
within Dorset and Devon.
Available from DERC
Price £15.00 (CD) or £30 (paper) + £2.00 post and packing.
To order, please send a cheque payable to DERC, to
Dorset History Centre, Bridport Road, Dorchester, DT1 1RP