From mussels to meadowsweet, the sea offers great lessons for all forms of life

From mussels to meadowsweet, the sea offers great lessons for all forms of life

Seagrass meadows play an important role in maintaining the health of our oceans and providing a home for all types of marine life. Credit: © Damsea, Shutterstock

In the Tuscan archipelago, seagrass meadows capture carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. Underwater flowering plants have the potential to be an essential tool in combating climate change but are vulnerable to disruption from human activities such as tourism and fishing.
Coordinated from Cork City, Ireland, the four-year project, Marine SABERS, brings people together to work on the conservation and restoration of ancient layers of Tuscan seagrass as one of its areas of focus.

Arctic and archipelago

The effects of climate change are being felt in oceans all over the world. With 22 institutions from 11 member states, the EU-funded project will enhance marine biodiversity in the Tuscan and Arctic archipelagoes and the Macaronesia (a group of four volcanic archipelagos in the North Atlantic Ocean).

For the seaweed that grows in the Tuscan archipelago, that means considering the impact of tourism on its conservation. Many groups – from port authorities to tour operators – are involved in tourism.

The first task of the project is to identify these key players, then discuss possible options with them and inspire local residents to get involved.

“We want to try to empower managers working in these areas to make sustainable decisions,” said Dr Emma Furling, coordinator of Marine SABERS at University College Cork. “And to enable citizens to become more involved in the conservation of marine biodiversity.”

life connections

One of the main goals of the project is to show how economic, social and environmental systems are interconnected.

“We have to try to help people better understand that we are sustaining ourselves through marine ecosystems,” Ferling said. “The ocean is not just a beautiful thing – there is a real connection between it and our health and livelihoods.”

Each of the three sites will bring together a unique set of their own activities and help stakeholders to address the social, economic and environmental factors they face in decisions affecting biodiversity.

A second project in Ireland is driving community engagement with some of Europe’s youngest citizens. A high-tech mobile classroom—known as the Aquaculture Remote Classroom (ARC)—brings a new generation of marine resources to elementary school children. It is part of a push to restore and protect our oceans for future generations.

Designed by the Irish Seafood Development Agency (BIM) and funded by the European Union, the experience features virtual reality (VR) headsets that give kids a virtual dive into aquaculture to discover the production processes of fish and shellfish.

Children and aquaculture

A roving class brings to life the sights and sounds of the sea, and explains how salmon, oysters, and mussels are farmed in Irish waters. In Ireland, no point is more than 100 kilometers from the sea. And while many young people live in coastal communities, they generally know very little about aquaculture.

Thirty thousand children have visited the classroom so far and it has received rave reviews.

“The ARC was fantastic – it was so much fun,” one student from Shanagolden National School in County Limerick described the experience. “We learned all about seafood and the food pyramid and how humans influence seas and coastal environments.”

Additionally: “The VR headset was great.”

By reaching young minds, the project hopes to inculcate knowledge early and debunk myths about diseases and damage that can plague the aquaculture industry, according to Carolyn Bockwell, interim CEO of BIM.

“ARC is an ideal opportunity to raise students’ awareness of the aquaculture sector and to bring the real and positive story of aquaculture in Ireland to communities,” said Bockwell. “To illustrate that it is a force for good that creates jobs, with good career progression.”

Adults are often not aware of how aquaculture works and what are the nutritional benefits of eating fish and seafood. So when schools are on holiday, the ARC makes appearances at seafood festivals and science outreach events.


Both ARC and Marine Sabers can be upgraded to other regions and countries.

“We see ARC as a model for other European countries for aquaculture education, and ultimately part of a connected and cohesive education network that will drive understanding and appreciation of the benefits of sustainable aquaculture,” Bockwell said.

Meanwhile, another EU-funded project called Prep4Blue also puts citizens, policymakers and companies at the center of research in this area. With the guidance of social and sustainable sciences, for three years Prep4Blue will provide tools for researchers to engage people in gathering knowledge to protect the ocean.

Coordinated by the French Institute of Oceanography (IFREMER), it includes 17 partners in eight countries.

“The knowledge is there, but somehow we don’t change our behavior,” says Prep4Blue coordinator Dr. Natalia Martin Palenzuela.

All of these projects come from the EU’s ambitious ‘Ocean and Water’ mission, a clear call to rise to the challenge of protecting and restoring these ecosystems by 2030.

It is a broad basis for science-based environmental action.

“The thesis approach aims to increase the uptake of scientific knowledge by citizens and stakeholders including policy makers, consumers, the economic sector, etc.,” said Dr. Martin Palenzuela.

Provided by Horizon: European Union Journal of Research and Innovation

the quote: From Mussels to Meadows, the Sea Offers Big Lessons for All Life (2022, November 24) Retrieved November 24, 2022 from -sea-offers-big-studies-for-all-life.html

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