Where once there was nothing, there are now lush meadows and thriving marine life.

A seagrass restoration project off the coast of Virginia has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world. Led by William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science, with help from The Nature Conservancy, more than 70 million eelgrass seeds were spread over a 494-acre plot by marine scientists and volunteers. The original plantings have since increased to a whopping 9,000 acres.

The successful project, which began as an experiment, is located in southeast Virginia on the southern end of the Eastern Shore. This area hasn’t had seagrass since the 1930s when it was wiped out by disease and a hurricane.

While it has taken more than 20 years for the project to get to this stage, scientists have gotten to observe and research it from the beginning. They were able to document details and lay the foundation for other marine restoration projects in other parts of the world.

Water quality and animal life also improved in the area. This amazing project proves the resilience of marine environments when given the time and means to recover. It’s an important factor in the fight against climate change.

Marine ecosystems like mangroves, seagrass beds, kelp forests, and salt marshes are crucial to the environment because of their potential to absorb CO2 and nitrogen. Seagrass helps marine animals and the environment in a wide variety of ways. It can capture carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. This is important because of the unlimited potential in using seagrass as a carbon offset. Currently, seagrass covers 0.2% of the ocean floor, so the possibilities really are immense.

Seagrass Facts

  • Mature seagrass beds can hold 1.3 times more carbon and 2.2 times more nitrogen in their roots and the soil around them than young plants.
  • 3,000 metric tons of carbon (the equivalent of the emissions of 653 cars driving for a year) and 600 metric tons of nitrogen were being held every year.
  • Seagrass covers 0.2% of the ocean floor, but it absorbs 10% of the ocean’s carbon every year.
  • Seagrass helps the ocean by filtering the water of pollutants, thus keeping it clean.
  • It stabilizes the sea bottom and provides a habitat for marine plants and animals.

Have you volunteered for a marine conservation program like a beach cleanup, a dune restoration, or a beach nourishment project? Let us know in the comments.