– by Karin Almlöf
A new discussion has entered the sustainability sphere: Can we grow eelgrass (Zostera marina) to compensate for activities affecting the marine environment?
Eelgrass has a unique ecological role. It is an important habitat for many plants and animals, as well as provides ecosystem services for humans. For example, it creates a reproduction ground for edible fish. It can also reduce erosion and increase the water quality by absorbing nutrients and carbon.
The eelgrass population has decreased by 60 to 95 percent across the Swedish west coast since the 1980s. A combination of eutrophication and overfishing are seen as the main cause.
An interdisciplinary research program called Zorro (Zostera restoration) based at the University of Gothenburg look at eelgrass beds as compensatory measures. The goal is “To improve the environmental conditions of shallow coastal ecosystems through the development of new methods for the management and restoration of eelgrass habitats in Sweden.”
One of the objectives in the project is to assess the legal, ecological, and economic aspects of compensatory restoration of seagrass.
There are five deliverables, one of them is to provide estimates of the economic value derived from eelgrass ecosystem services in Sweden. Another one is to recommend on how the Swedish legal system can be developed to further support a sustainable management of shallow coastal ecosystems.
The port of Gothenburg was ordered by the Växjö District Court in December of 2015 to compensate for the ecological consequences due to their expansion with new terminals and quays in the harbor. The port will plant a minimum of 1,7 hectares of eelgrass using scientific methods. They plan to start in the spring of 2016 and finish in 2023. The progress will be reported to the court and to the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.
It will be very interesting to follow the debate of how ecosystem services provided by marine habitats are valued, and how the Swedish legal system can and will support this.
/ Karin Almlöf
Photo by: Per-Olav Moksnes
Malin Hemminsson, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, pdf: http://www.lansstyrelsen.se/vasterbotten/SiteCollectionDocuments/Sv/nyheter/2016/Marin%20restaureringskonferens/7%20Malin%20Hemmingsson%20Ekologisk%20komp%20G%C3%B6teborgs%20hamn.pdf