A species of tropical seagrass (Halophila ovalis) never been grown in a UK aquarium before is not only thriving but has recently produced flowers. This is thought to be a first in the UK for Hull?s award-winning aquarium The Deep. The success is another pioneering step forward in the charity?s extensive research and conservation programme, which is putting them firmly on the map as a leader in this field.
Both male and female flowers were spotted in the last week, opening around half an hour before the lights went down. The delicate flowers only last for around 2-3 days (see picture attached of male flower).
Aquarist Tom Bolton tells us more: ?We are delighted to have been able to culture this species of seagrass. It?s a big achievement to be the only UK aquarium to have managed this successfully.
?Our success is down to four factors. It?s about establishing the right levels of light, making sure there is a deep sand bed for the roots to establish, ensuring the sand bed gets the right dose of nutrients and a that the tank has a strong but indirect flow of water.
?We chose to use system skimmer by-product as a nutrient source. This was shaped into pellets and frozen at minus 20 degrees Celsius before being distributed throughout the bed, below the surface.
?What people don?t realise is that seagrass meadows have an important role in storing carbon. Seagrass meadows are effectively areas where carbon is locked away within the substrate, the earthy material that exists at the bottom of a marine habitat actually helps to slow down the progress of global warming much like trees do on land.? In fact world seagrass beds are thought to store 83,000 metric tons of carbon per square kilometre, compared to rainforests which only store around 30,000 metric tons per square kilometre.?
The Deep is committed to helping safeguard the future of endangered species and habitats. Seagrass meadows are among the worlds most threatened ecosystems, with disturbances from dredging, mangrove deforestation, polluted coastal waters, boat moorings and fish farms causing loss of meadows year on year. In addition to their ability to store carbon, seagrass ecosystems are also very important habitats for fish and other aquatic life. They also filter sediment and act as protective barrier to coastlines from storms and floods.
The good news is that it is possible to reverse the trend of declining seagrass beds through restoration projects. By sharing information with researchers, techniques and methods learned at The Deep, culturing seagrass on a small scale, may help to inform restoration processes.
For more information on The Deep, Hull please visit their main page here