Finding hidden seagrass treasures off Donegal coast

by harry walsh
A NATURAL resource which is considered to be more important than the rain forests has been discovered off the coast of south west Donegal.
Zostera Marina is a type of seagrass which grows in the inshore areas of the Irish coast. It supports biodiversity, cleans the surrounding water and helps take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Last month, a group of local swimmers discovered a couple of outcrops of seagrass along sheltered parts of Iniskeel island adjacent to Narin beach.
Details of the find have since been forwarded to Coastwatch Europe who were conducting a survey during the Autumn to establish the extent of seagrass off the Irish coast.
“These are some of our most valuable blue carbon habitats”, Coastwatch coordinator and marine biologist Karin Dubsky told the Donegal News this week.
Seagrass or Zostera marina is the inshore equivalent of coral reefs or tropical rainforests in nurturing habitats for diverse species.
Seagrass has the ability to sequester carbon up to 35 times faster than the rain forest but sadly 90 per cent of seagrass has disappeared from our waters over the last 100 years because of human activity.
“Our first year survey results are to be presented in a workshop on line (was to be in TCD) on Wednesday next, December 15, and Donegal will feature.
“There is far too little known about your amazing Donegal coast with its hidden seagrass treasures. Next week, we will also launch our list of recommendations including a headline one of protecting seagrass where ever it occurs as it is one of the most valuable habitats for climate change mitigation and biodiversity,” she added.
“Thanks to the most recent finds near Ardara and another by a paddle boarder off the north Donegal coast we now think that seagrass is more prevalent in Donegal than was officially known.
“It’s one of the most important blue carbon habitats and not only does it collect carbon but it also helps to filter sediments and keep shorelines stable. It’s an incredibly valuable resource and our thanks go to those swimmers who found it,” Ms Dubsky said.
“We’ve known Mulroy Bay to be an important location for seagrass but thanks to the lads who discovered it at Narin and the find off the north Donegal coast we’ll be able to include them in our updated maps,” she added.
Leonard Molloy, along with Paul McCrossan and Gerard McHugh, discovered the outcrops of sea grass while they were swimming around Iniskeel last month.
“It seems that this is either new, or never was noted before. So we’ve given Coastwatch verified evidence of the find, and now they’re asking us to officially name them. There are two locations, one in the Church Pool, and one along the coast facing the Church on the mainland,” Mr Molloy said.
A message has since been sent into a local swimming group app asking members to provide some suitable names that will be officially recorded by Coastwatch Europe for these Seagrass finds.

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