Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Z is for Zostera

Please remember! We ask that people do not visit the Reserve particularly if you have to travel. All car parks on Holy Island are closed to visitors until government restrictions are lifted. Many residents on Holy island fall into the vulnerable category. Please adhere to these guidelines for the health and safety of yourself and others during this time.

Zostera….What is that you may ask. Well Zostera is the scientific name for the extensive Eel Grass beds that cover parts of the intertidal area at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. Eel grass is a form of sea-grass that flourishes in the intertidal area of which there are two species that occur at Lindisfarne. They are Zostera noltii, a perennial species which overwinters as rhizomes, and Zostera marina, an annual germinating each year from seed.
Zostera at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve
So why is Zostera so vital to the intertidal habitat and worth protecting? The reasons are numerous.

  • Eelgrass beds provide natural buffers against coastal storms by absorbing the force from waves and, through their extensive root systems, preventing some shoreline sediments from washing away.
  • Zostera can help mitigate against climate change. Eelgrass absorbs carbon dioxide and methane—both greenhouse gases—and stores them in its root system. Research suggests that eelgrass’s carbon sequestration also moderates the effects of ocean acidification, which can inhibit the ability of some marine life.
  • Eelgrass beds play an integral role in the ocean food chain by providing habitat for plankton to thrive. The swaying grasses also offer shelter and foraging areas for fish and molluscs. Migratory wildfowl, especially the East Atlantic Light-bellied Brent Geese feed on the Eel Grass beds which are very nutritious and are one of the reasons that 50% of the world’s population choose to winter on the Reserve.
  • Like a massive filter, Zostera helps improve water quality by absorbing pollutants. Recent studies show a drastic reduction in harmful chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in areas with eelgrass beds. Bacteria found in the beds also help prevent harmful algal blooms. This flowering marine plant also traps and retains sediment, resulting in clearer, cleaner water.
    A Light-bellied Brent Goose enjoying the Eel Grass ©JJD
Globally, sea grass has disappeared by 30 per cent over the last century. A figure which is beginning to accelerate with increased population causing more development and pollution along with other associated human impacts. Looking to the future sea level rise is also likely to have significant impact. The Zostera at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is monitored annually to ensure the health of this priority habitat.

And that’s the end of our tour of Lindisfarne from A-Z. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Hopefully, you have also learnt a little bit more about Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve along the way.

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