Eelgrass monitoring

Health Assessment for Eelgrass in the Helford

The Eelgrass beds of the Helford are an important habitat within the estuary and are one of the finest examples of a healthy seagrass meadow in the south west.

In April this year, a team of willing volunteers, headed by myself, drew up plans to conduct in-depth seasonal monitoring of the Helford eelgrass bed in order to further our knowledge of how the bed changes over the seasons. The information gathered by the project, which will run for at least two years, will provide an excellent platform for further research into the ecology of eelgrass beds and how best to protect them for the future. It will also provide a training ground for any budding marine scientists to develop practical skills and learn more about this wonderful ecosystem on our doorstep.

Seagrasses are among the most important and yet endangered ecosystems on Earth and a recent report estimated that they have been disappearing globally at a rate of 110 km2 per year since 1980. The monitoring project, which has been set up in collaboration with SeagrassNet – a US based seagrass conservation body, has received support from the HVMCA and Natural England as well as interest from the Marine Biological Association and the Crown Estate, who are currently looking into similar projects in Devon and Dorset. There appears to be a network of seagrass enthusiasts across the country, all conducting important research into seagrass conservation and this project promises to add vital information to the bank of knowledge.

The first planned survey got off to a bad start a few weeks ago due to the occurrence of red tides in the estuary. The visibility was so poor we were forced to postpone in the interests of health and safety. Not to be put off by some plankton however, the first survey will now be carried out in October 2009 and every three months thereafter. The study site is already set up and is marked out by nine small, permanent anchors in the sea bed. If you happen to see any, please leave them where they are or we may get lost.

Anyone interested in getting involved is invited to make contact and offer their support. You don’t need to be a diver to help out as we need safety cover on the beach and on the water, as well help with lab work, photographs and data. For more information, please contact me at or visit the weblog at for pictures and an up to date diary of our progress so far. In the meantime, if you see any strange looking characters around Durgan with diving gear and bits of rope, it might be us!

Mitchell Neilly
GIS and data officer, DASSH, MBA, Plymouth.

07506 460029

Extract from HVMCA newsletter No.39 Autumn 2009

© Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area