Seaweed Survey

Posted on 10th August 2011

First ever survey of seaweed on North Sea coastline

The first ever survey of seaweed along England’s east coast begins today (Monday 1 August), thanks to The Wildlife Trusts.

The conservation organisation is working with partners to coordinate Seaweed East, a scheme which will see a team of surveyors exploring 11 locations from Essex to Northumberland. Starting at Blackwater estuary in Essex, renowned marine biologists and Seasearch divers will work with a botanist and a wild food expert, spending an intensive period of 11 days exploring the locations, including several previously unsurveyed Wildlife Trust coastal nature reserves. At each site, all species of seaweed will be recorded, and samples taken.

The east coast is an under-surveyed section of the UK’s coastline, often due to the perception of the area being of little ecological importance. In fact, the North Sea supports two of England’s largest subtidal chalk reefs. It is hoped Seaweed East will provide vital evidence of the true variety of life this area supports.

There are around 650 species of seaweed in the UK. They are a hugely versatile resource, used in food, medicines and cosmetics. Seaweeds are equally important to marine life as they are to humans, providing food and habitat for creatures, such as the blue-rayed limpet which lives on kelp fronds.

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Seaweed is mainly known for being slimy and squelchy but, like plants on land, it plays a vital part in marine ecosystems. Its health and abundance reveals a great deal about the overall health of a given environment.

“A seaweed survey coordinated by Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust last year recorded at least 150 species of seaweed. It greatly increased our knowledge of the marine wildlife around the area, and turned up some invasive species previously unrecorded there. We expect Seaweed East will bring similar surprises to light.”

The Wildlife Trusts are helping to fund and coordinate Seaweed East in conjunction with Seasearch, a volunteer organisation for divers to get involved with surveying the marine wildlife they encounter in the UK. Together with Shoresearch, The Wildlife Trusts’ volunteer scheme to identify and record animals, plants, and habitats along our shoreline, records are being built up of the marine wildlife our seas support. This information could help to identify areas of special importance for marine life both above and below the surface.

Local Wildlife Trusts will be holding events at some of the 11 Seaweed East locations for National Marine Week (30 July – 14 August). These will include seaweed safaris and opportunities to sign The Wildlife Trusts’ Petition Fish, which aims to garner support for Marine Protected Areas in the UK’s seas.

To find out more about the marine life in the North Sea visit www.northseawildlife.org.uk.

To sign Petition Fish visit
and for more information about The Wildlife Trusts’ Living Seas vision visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/livingseas.