Citizen divers in Kiel, Germany, are making headlines for "underwater gardening," an effort to restore countless meadows under the Baltic Sea. The initiative comes after the decline in seagrasses—primary flora that makes underwater meadows—has reduced in size due to the declining quality of waters. To make matters worse, Europe lost one-third of its seagrass areas between the 1860s and 2016, speeding up global warming.
Kiel Bay, at the southwestern edge of the Baltic Sea, is another significant diving location with underwater meadows. Rich in nutrients and shelter, these meadows support the growth of various algae and invertebrates. Diving enthusiasts can observe crabs, starfish, and other bottom-dwelling creatures that have adapted to the unique conditions of the Baltic Sea.
Scientists have reported that meadows serve as natural carbon sinks that can store millions of tonnes of carbon. Unfortunately, these meadows have dwindled considerably over the past century due to worsening water quality.
In 2012, a study revealed that seagrasses store more than double the amount of carbon dioxide per square mile than forests do on land. These plants also support fisheries and protect coasts from erosion.
Although other global initiatives exist to restore seagrasses, the SeaStore Seagrass Restoration Project in Kiel, led by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, is one of the first to enable citizens to participate in the restoration process autonomously. Verfondern, along with six other divers and some land volunteers, planted about 2,500 plants as part of the initiative.
The Baltic Sea, nestled in Northern Europe, is a remarkable aquatic ecosystem teeming with an array of diverse marine life forms. This expansive sea, known for its unique brackish waters, hosts an intriguing variety of organisms adapted to its distinctive environment. Among these, underwater meadows stand out as a distinct feature, harbouring their own remarkable inhabitants.
Tourist interest might be the key to reviving the meadows of the Baltic Sea. If so, here are the top diving spots in and around the European Baltic Sea.
Rügen Island, located off the northeastern coast of Germany, is home to the Jasmund National Park, a marine reserve renowned for its underwater meadows. These meadows provide a habitat for sea grasses and algae, which attract an array of marine species. Diving here offers the chance to observe schools of fish, crustaceans, and even the elusive seahorses that find shelter amidst the waving seagrass.
Stretching between Germany and Denmark, the Fehmarn Belt is an area with thriving underwater meadows. These meadows are vital for the survival of various marine organisms. Divers can encounter a tapestry of marine life, including flatfish, hermit crabs, and various species of molluscs. The meadows also serve as feeding and breeding grounds for several fish species.
Usedom Island, situated on the border between Germany and Poland, boasts underwater meadows that support an intricate web of life. These meadows are inhabited by creatures such as sea snails, sea cucumbers, and small fish. Divers exploring this area can witness the complex interactions between these organisms and the meadow’s ecosystem.