NRW report identifies essential marine habitats that could be restored

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has published a marine restoration report that shows the potential to restore marine environments in Wales back into prospering habitats and highlights the wider benefits they can offer.

Bringing existing data together in a new way, the report shows where physical conditions could support important marine species and habitats.

By mapping seabed type, depth, current habitats, light levels and more, the report shows where environmental conditions could support these vital species and habitats. It also confirms the additional benefits these habitats can offer.

Among the species and habitats in the report are saltmarsh, mudflats, and seagrass. It also considers possibilities for reef-forming species that provide a habitat for other animals and seaweeds. These include horse mussel beds, honeycomb worm reefs and native oyster habitat.

Previous research has already shown that marine habitats are able to absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This report also highlights many other benefits that healthy marine habitats can offer:

  • Absorbing wave energy to improve coastal protection
  • Improved water quality and cycling of nutrients
  • Providing habitats and nursery grounds for other marine life
  • Improving the quality of our marine and coastal environments for their local communities and visitors

NRW hopes that bringing existing evidence together in this report can help stakeholders, communities and conservation groups to decide where to focus action on actively restoring such habitats.

Amy Martin, Marine Specialist Advisor at NRW said:

“The marine environment is such an important part of life in Wales. Healthy and functioning seas can help us tackle the current climate and nature emergencies. This report is the first time we have had a clear map of where active restoration might be possible for some of our key marine habitats.
“We hope this gives organisations a place to start when they look to restore habitats. It shows where restoration could be physically possible, and it provides an insight in to how to restore these habitats. It also highlights the many benefits that restored and healthy habitats can offer people in Wales and shows how important our seas are for our health and wellbeing.”

Communities and conservation groups considering to develop restoration projects can use the report maps before diving deeper to check sites for current use, ownership, and suitability for restoration.

Welsh Government has already pledged to establish a targeted scheme to support restoration of seagrass and saltmarsh habitats along the Welsh coastline in their Programme for Government.

Julie James, Minister for Climate Change, said:

“Wales has a rich and diverse marine environment, which includes 139 Marine Protected Areas covering 50% of our waters, and is home to the UK’s only national park covering both the marine and terrestrial environment.
 “I recognise the importance the marine environment can play in addressing the climate and nature emergencies – marine and coastal habitats such as seagrass and sub-tidal sediments provide us with many benefits - storing up to 170% more carbon compared to forests, providing flood protection, and increasing biodiversity.
 “This report is a first step towards delivering my commitment to establishing a coastal habitats restoration scheme and its contribution to our vision of clean, safe, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas in Wales.”

NRW has worked with partners across Wales to identify key priorities for the sustainable management of our seas, set out in the Marine Area Statement. This report has come about as a result of actions under both the ‘Building resilience of marine ecosystems’ and ‘Making the most of marine planning’ themes. Active restoration of marine habitats is one tool within a wider programme of activity. This includes managing the pressures on the marine environment to prevent damage from occurring and working with partners to improve the condition of our Marine Protected Areas. Read the report here.