A window in the sea, into what can be.
SeaTrees is working in collaboration with The Cleanwave Foundation, a Mediterranean based non-profit, on their MedGardens Seagrass and Macroalgae Restoration Project which seeks to holistically restore the marine ecosystem surrounding the well known tourist destination of Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands of Spain. This is our first-ever seagrass restoration project, supporting the restoration of one of three sites at Formentor, covering an area of 53,820 sq-ft.
The holistic project employs a variety of methods to achieve its goals, including research, marine debris removal, community engagement through education, hands-on training and volunteer opportunities, educational signage, and the promotion of a blue economy. The project has also collaborated with local authorities to implement more sustainable mooring equipment, which is vital in an area with high boat traffic.
Seagrass plays a crucial role in maintaining the well-being of coastal communities. They help to create clear waters teeming with life, which are essential for sustainable tourism. They also serve as vital habitats that replenish fisheries, act as carbon sinks, and protect against climate change impacts such as coastal erosion from storms.
Similar to other blue carbon ecosystems, seagrasses have proven to be incredibly efficient in sequestering carbon, up to twice as much as the average terrestrial forest.
As one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, seagrasses absorb carbon dioxide from the ocean and atmosphere and store it in their biomass, where it accumulates over time, and is eventually stored in the soil for millennia.
Seagrass and seaweed species are also known as habitat-forming species, meaning they create a habitat that provides resources such as food or shelter that were previously scarce.
A Fragile ecosystem
In recent decades, seaweed forests have experienced significant declines and are under serious threat from human activities. Seagrass covers approximately 177,000 km2 worldwide, but between 7% and 19% of its current surface (roughly 33,000 km2) has been lost, equivalent to more than 4 million football fields. In the Mediterranean alone, an estimated 446 km2 (over 62,000 football fields) have been lost.
These species, which flourish in shallow waters, are particularly vulnerable as they exist in a transitional environment that is exposed to both marine and land-based impacts. The situation is especially dire in the Mediterranean, despite it being one of the most biodiverse seas on earth, it is also highly threatened by human activities. The semi-closed nature of the sea, combined with densely populated coasts and significant maritime traffic, exacerbates the problem.
The Restoration Process
The project is currently developing 3 pilots in 3 different sites in Mallorca to restore seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) and canopy-forming seaweed forests (Cystoseira s.l.).
Sites will start with small scale experimental designs of different active restoration techniques to compare and validate the most efficient methodologies before scaling up in three years time.
Small plots of shallow coastal seabed are used for transplanting or reinforcing algae and seagrass communities. These areas function as social and environmental laboratories where science and citizens collaborate to enhance the marine knowledge and participation of the people through citizen science.
Regenerated underwater forests create new habitats that support the growth of other plant and animal species, contributing to the restoration of biodiversity and promoting productivity that benefits society.
The Cleanwave Foundation is dedicated to promoting community projects aimed at conserving, protecting, and regenerating the land and sea in the Balearic Islands. One of its key initiatives is MedGardens, which shares the goal of making the Balearics a global leader in regenerative living by 2026.
Launched in June 2020 by José Escaño, the MedGardens project has since been supported by Laura Royo, Fiona Tomas and Tatí Benjumea, who joined the scientific team in September of that year. The development of MedGardens' community and scientific strategies has been informed by input from various inspirational and advisory individuals and entities.
This project provides long-term employment for the local community. This in turn drives other Sustainable Development benefits.